Understanding the Practice

This practice is a futsal-inspired session which encourages forward passing, forward runs, combination play and provides an opportunity to work on 1v1 finishing. The framework of the practice can be adapted for a variety of themes and various player numbers. If you’re trying this practice for the first time, locking players in to zones as outlined in the instructions below can be helpful in bedding in the structure of the practice. As you gradually alter the constraints and allow more freedom, repetition of the outcomes may reduce, while realism will increase.

About the Video

In the video below, UEFA A licensed coach, Dave Wright demonstrates the practice with a group of U15 players.

Additional Information

The structure of this practice lends itself to a number of outcomes, including:

  • Forward passing
  • Forward supporting runs
  • 1v1s
  • Playing out of the back
  • Combination play
  • Defending outnumbered
  • Attacking overloads
  • Close range finishing

With so many possible outcomes within one practice, it’s advisable to consider which options best suit your players needs. You may have a midfield 3 who need work on quick combination play, so you could make the pitch quite narrow (to represent areas on the pitch that are congested). You may want to work on forward runs, so allow players to break into the final third with clever movement to create overloads. You may have an individual who needs to work on their dribbling, so could allow that player to dribble into the next third while others are only allowed to pass. There are lots of ways to adjust the practice and it’s a game that the players will love.

Practice Overview

Topic: Combination Play & Finishing

No. of Players: 8 – 20

Goalkeepers: Yes

Practice Type: Small Sided Game

Offsides: Optional

Pitch Size: 45 x 20 (6v6)

Timing: 20-40 minutes

Age Group: 8+

Interpreting the Diagrams

The key below outlines what the images mean on the diagrams.

If you have questions about the practices, contact the PDP Team or share your views on the Player Development Project Coaching Community.

Key For Diagrams


Game set up in a 1-1-3-1 shape 6v6. Players locked into their zones to begin with.
Red team play out from the back, through midfield and into their striker who is now tasked with going 1v1 with the goalkeeper.
Example of the first progression where a midfielder is now encouraged to make a forward supporting run into the final third, creating 2v1s. You can choose to restrict the midfield defender (blue) by not allowing recovery, or allow them to recover depending on player needs. To further encourage forward runs, you could restrict scoring to a one touch finish.
Example of how you can still use the practice if you don’t have goalkeepers. Create a scoring ‘end zone’ and you could restrict players to a one touch finish (if allowing midfielders to support with forward runs).
Example of the practice set up for bigger numbers in a 9v9. The same rules/principles apply, but repetition may be lower due to higher player numbers.


The focus of this practice is to work on forward passes from midfield to a striker. Midfield combinations may reflect your formation (e.g. a midfield 3 or 4) and you can constrain the practice to help strikers with 1v1 finishing, focus on forward runs or work on both. Ideally, you will see lots of forward passes and forward runs from midfield as players learn the game


Set up a pitch divided into thirds. Adjust the size depending on the age. A narrower pitch is recommended to reduce options for sideways passes. Each group are locked into their third. The ball can only progress by being passed forward. You can allow 1 midfielder to drop in and help in the build up. You can adapt using the following rules:

  • Insist striker must go 1v1 when they receive the pass
  • Allow one midfielder to make a forward run to support the striker
  • Allow defending midfield to track the forward runner
  • Allow a defender to dribble into the middle third in build up
  • Unlock players in all zones and observe how they maintain or change shape

Observations & Interventions

What you might see

  • Players passing forward but not running to support

Actions you might take

  • Insist on one touch finish meaning the forward runner has to support the striker quickly

Adaptations: Is the session too easy?

  • Make the space narrower
  • Use 1 touch finish rule (to encourage forward runs)
  • Allow defenders to track forward runners

Is the session too hard?

  • Make the space bigger
  • Allow 2v1s in final third (forward run but no defender)

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