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Football counterattack: basic player positions and techniques

The football counter-attack is one of the most spectacular and effective strategies in football, based on a quick transition from defence to attack. A successful counterattack requires a clear understanding of the roles and actions of each player. Let’s take a look at the main positions and techniques used in a counter-attack.

Basic positions of players in a counterattack


  • Role. Quickly start the attack by throwing the ball away or making a long pass.
  • Techniques. Quick ejections of the ball with the hands or long kicks with the foot.
  • Role. Intercepting the ball and immediately passing it to midfielders or forwards.
  • Techniques. Quick and accurate passes, ability to maintain the defensive line.


  • Role. A link between defence and attack, accelerating the attack.
  • Habits. Quick dribbling, accurate long and short passes, change of direction.

Wing players (wingers):

  • Role. Quickly moving down the flank and passing into the penalty area.
  • Habits. Speed, dribbling, accurate crosses into the centre of the pitch.


  • Role. Completing attacks, quick runs behind defenders.
  • Habits. Ability to open up, accurate shots on goal, holding the ball.

Basic counterattack techniques

Quick passes:

The main principle of counterattacking is quickness. Players must be able to pass the ball quickly from defence to attack without giving the opponent time to organise a defence.

Use of free areas:

Counterattacks are often successful by exploiting the free areas left by the opponent. Midfielders and wingers must be able to find and use these areas to advance the ball.

Runs by strikers behind defenders:

Attackers must make runs behind opposing defenders to get the ball on the move and go one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Quick flank attacks:

Using the flanks to attack quickly and then cross into the penalty area is an effective tactic, especially against teams playing with high defensive lines.

Mobility of midfielders:

Midfielders must be mobile and ready to support both the attack and return to the defence when the ball is lost.

Examples of successful counter-attacks

Real Madrid (2014/15). In the Champions League under Carlo Ancelotti, the team displayed brilliant counter-attacks, often starting with the interception of the ball and lightning-fast forwards using the speed of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Leicester City (2015/16). Under Claudio Ranieri, Leicester won the English Premier League title thanks to effective counter-attacks, in which quick strikers Jamie Vardy and Riyad Marez played a key role.

Counter-attacking is not only about technique and tactics, but also about the team’s ability to work cohesively, react quickly to changes on the pitch and make the right decisions in stressful situations.