What is a Counter Attack in Soccer?

What is a Counter Attack in Soccer?

A counter attack in soccer is a tactic used where a team quickly transitions from defense to offense in order to take advantage of the opposition’s vulnerabilities.

It is a strategy that is particularly effective against teams that are heavily reliant on possession-based and attacking play.

Once the ball is won, the team quickly launches a fast attack towards the opposition’s goal. The aim is to catch the opposition off guard while they are out of position and create a goal scoring opportunity.

In order to execute a successful counter attack, a team needs to be defensively organized and compact.

They also need to have players with sufficient speed and attacking prowess to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in any given moment.

What is a Counter Attack?

A counter attack in soccer is a quick offensive play that a team makes after regaining possession of the ball from the opposition.

The counter attack is characterized by its speed, precision, and efficiency, with the aim of scoring a goal.

The Purpose of a Counter Attack

The purpose of a counter attack is to take advantage of the opposition’s deep momentum to create a potential scoring opportunity going the other way.

It is an effective way of scoring goals against teams that have an attack-first strategy.

Counter attacks are also used to disrupt the momentum of the opposing team, as it puts them on the back foot and forces them to defend.

It can be pretty demoralizing for the opposition if they dominate possession but let up a goal off a counter attack. Sometimes all it takes is one goal in a soccer game to make a big difference.

How Does a Counter Attack Work?

A counter attack is a fast-paced attacking move that a team makes after regaining possession of the ball from the opposition.

For example, a central defensive midfielder (CDM) makes a clean tackle then pokes it to the attacking midfielder. Subsequently, the attacking midfielder makes a through-ball to the inverted winger and the winger slashes in the middle for a goal. This is all happening while the defensive team is trying to track back because they were on the offense. 

Counter attack play

In the graphic above, you can see how the progression plays out.

Sometimes it’s Better to Go Slow to Go Fast

A counter attack is not always the best option.

It requires a good understanding of the game, and the ability to quickly recognize when to launch a counter attack.

If the opposition has a strong defensive structure, a counter attack may not be effective. In such cases, the team may opt for a slower build-up play to break down the opposition’s defense.

How to Defend Against a Counter Attack

Defending against a counter attack equally as important as identifying and taking advantage of one.

Counter attacks don’t typically happen often but, when it does, it can lead to a goal.

Defending against it effectively requires quick thinking and great positioning. Here are some tips on how to defend against a counter attack:

  • Stay organized: When your team is in possession of the ball, make sure that everyone is in their proper defensive positions. This will make it easier to defend against a counter attack.
  • Close down space: When the opposing team is on the counter attack, it’s important to close down space and limit the amount of room they have to work with. This can be done by pressuring the ball and cutting off passing lanes.
  • Communicate: Communication is key when defending against a counter attack. Make sure that everyone is talking to each other and letting each other know where the opposing players are.
  • Defend as a team: Defending against a counter attack is not just the job of the defenders. The entire team needs to work together to prevent the opposing team from scoring.
  • Be patient: When defending against a counter attack, it’s important to be patient and not dive in. If you dive in and miss the ball, it can leave your team vulnerable to a goal.
  • Get a foot on it: Even a little toe-poke can disrupt an offensive team’s momentum. Sometimes, this can lead to a counter attack from a counter attack (if that makes any sense).


Counter-attacking plays an important role in soccer, and it can be an effective way for teams to score goals against the run of play.

Successful counter-attacks often require a combination of defensive organization, compactness, speed and awareness.

The team must be able to quickly transition from defense to attack, and the players must be able to make quick, accurate passes to exploit the spaces left by the opposition.

Overall, counter-attacking is an essential tactic in soccer, and teams that can execute it successfully can gain a significant advantage over their opponents.

By utilizing the principles outlined in this article, teams can improve their counter-attacking capabilities and increase their chances of scoring goals.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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