#France U17 Men

Thursday session 2: Defending in a high-block

Jean‑Luc Vannuchi and Vincent Hamonic, 11 Jul 2023


The France U-17 men’s national team are now into day four of their training camp ahead of their second encounter against Wales on the Friday. The players who played in Wednesday’s game undergo a recovery session, while those who played little or no part in the match complete a double session.

Having worked on attacking organisation during the morning session, the starting XI for Friday’s game turn their focus to defensive organisation. Specifically, they work on defending in a high block to press the opposition when they are playing out from the back, with the aim of winning the ball back high up the pitch and creating goalscoring opportunities. The players selected for the upcoming match on the Friday line up in a 10v11 on a half-pitch playing area against those who started the previous fixture, who are set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation to replicate the system that Wales are expected to adopt.

Key coaching points

  • The players need to press together as a unit in order to maintain a compact block across the width and length of the pitch. The centre-forward triggers the press and the rest of the team follow suit. The centre-forward’s team-mates should hold their positions until he initiates the press, so as not to disrupt the block. The centre-forward should press only when in a position to isolate one of the two centre-backs. Once the press has been triggered, the centre-forward must also press the goalkeeper if he receives a backpass, thereby forcing the rest of the team block to push higher up the pitch.

  • The team block must shift together as a unit when the ball is played out wide to pen in the opposition and prevent them from playing out. In this case, the centre-forward presses the centre-back, while the ball-side winger closes down the full-back. The winger on the opposite flank must then close down the second centre-back and cut off the passing line between the two central defenders. If the opposition manage to play out and look to switch the play to the opposite flank, France’s full-back on the far side must close down Wales’s full-back on the same side. The rest of the defensive line must then shift across to cover the space in behind the full-back.

  • When they win the ball back, the players should try to reproduce the patterns of play worked on during the morning session, i.e. link up in the central zone to progress play into the opposition’s box and create goalscoring opportunities.

Exercise 1 - 11v10 game scenario on a half pitch

The exercise always starts with the goalkeeper playing the ball out to one of his centre-backs. The defending team then look to execute their press to try to win the ball back and create goalscoring opportunities in the transition phase.

  • Half-pitch playing area

  • Team of 11 set up in a 4-2-3-1, with a goalkeeper

  • Team of 10 set up in a 4-3-3, without a goalkeeper

  • The goalkeeper begins the exercise by playing the ball out to one of his centre-backs.

  • The exercise then involves free play.

  • When they lose possession, the pink-team players can defend but are not allowed to sprint.

  • The pink team aim to progress the ball beyond the halfway line.

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