How to Counter-Attack in 5-a-Side
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Counter-Attack In 5-A-Side: Complete Guide

5-a-side football is also known as a variation of futsal. This is a versatile format of football in which only 5 players play against each other. 5-sided games are played on smaller surfaces and the match timings hardly range from 25-35 minutes.

You have to be as physically fit for 5-sided games as 11-sided games because each player has to run up and down the court multiple times. We are going to discuss briefly a few other tactics so that we can compare them with counter-attack in 5-a-side and see the differences.

This applies specially to midfielders, and forwards. The stoppers mostly stay back all the time to prevent counter-attacks and one-on-one situations. We are going to talk about different tactics of playing this format of the game. However, our main focus for this article is counter-attack in 5-a-side.

Every coach has his own mentality and there is not one specific tactic which works all the time. The tactics depend on different factors. This includes the situations during the game or if a team wants to defend their lead or vice versa.  

What are The Essentials to Counter-Attacking?  

Counter-attack means an attack which is made in response to a particular defence. Well, this is somewhat the counter-attack in football also means. Counter-attack in 5-a-side games or football is a sudden or quick attack which opposition team do not see coming.

There are multiple of occasions when counter-attacks are initiated. One most common scenario is when team loses the ball while they are attacking. When a team attacks, all players including defenders move higher up on the pitch. Therefore, if the attacking team loses the ball, it gives advantage to the defending team.  

This is because there is a lot of space available where the players can either dribble or pass the ball. Furthermore, the opposing players are also higher up on the pitch. Therefore, they cannot mark any other player from the opposite team. Counter-attacks usually lead to team goals, one v ones or sometimes, they are also denied by good defences.

This is the most common scenario when counter-attacks are witnessed. Counter-attacking in 5-a-side games is very similar to this. Also, counter-attacking play in 5 a-side is much faster than 11-sided football due to small-sized pitches.  

Teams which like to keep a lot of ball possession normally play with a counter-attacking strategy. They like to play small passes and make the opposing players hungry to win the ball. This leads to more players leaving their positions and run around the pitch to snatch the ball. Therefore, the team having possession can quickly exploit on open spaces and initiate a rather, lethal counter attack.

Pep Guardiola of Manchester City also once said that he likes to use counter-attacking strategy. He clearly said that it is a very strong weapon in football. This means that counter-attack in five a-side is indeed a very helpful tactic.  

Different Tactics Compared to Counter-Attacking 

We are going to discuss a few tactics briefly, and then compare with the counter-attack in 5-a-side tactic.  

All-Out Defence

This is one of the most common 5-sided tactics we usually see. Let’s be honest, not every manager thinks alike. Some like their players to attack as often as possible.

Meanwhile, others are more defensive minded and do not like to concede much goals. The best examples of defensive minded coaches are Ernesto Valverde and Diego Simeone. However, tactics also depend upon the situation of the game.  

Every player drops down and defends in All-Out Defence formation. The main objective of this tactic is to prevent the opponents from scoring a goal. This usually happens when a team has scored and they are trying to defend the lead. This happens a lot in knockout games.

If a team has taken the lead first, they sometimes try to defend it and not risk a counter-attack from opposition. Strikers press from the front in this tactic. However, this is very different from counter-attack in 5-a-side. Players tend to enjoy the game more in counter-attacking play.  

They also get to exploit more space which makes the game more fun playing. However, all out defence is also useful during the dying minutes of a knockout game. Football is a unpredictable sport and many coaches prefer not to risk if they get the lead first.

This makes it very difficult for opposing teams to create more chances, and gradually frustrates them. Counter-attacks can also be initiated when teams are all out defending because more players from the opposition come down the pitch to score goals. This can lead to scoring more goals for the already defending team.  

All 4 Players Never Attack

This is another common tactic in small sided games. This is pretty similar to counter-attack in 5-a-side except for one fact. All players including defenders rush to attack during counter-attacks. However, this tactic discourages that.

The team following this tactic normally initiates their attacks from the back. This is also known as building up. All players do not rush to the goal. Instead, a few stay back for back passes.

Normally, only 1 player is present at the back when following this tactic in futsal. However, the midfielders and striker do stay forward.  

This allows the team to have more possession. The players can also play a back pass when in tight spaces or pressure situations. Other than that, the defenders can also chip in a lob ball over the opposition defence when implementing this tactic.

This is very commonly seen in football. This is also the reason why many Centre-Backs do not go forward at all. This tactic can also prevent sudden counter-attacks from the opposition team. This is similar to what we discussed earlier. Teams which like to counter-attack also like to follow this tactic.  

Which Formation is the Best to Counter-Attack with? 

Counter-attack in 5-a-side game is a very unique tactic and can be applied to almost any formation. The team which is able to keep more of the ball and make opposition players leave positions can counter-attack. However, there is one formation which is best known for counter-attacks.

This is the 2-1-1 formation. The name of this formation is also “The Counter”. Therefore, the name suggests that this is going to allow the players to initiate the maximum number of counter-attacks. This is also a very common formation in 5 a-side football.  

This formation allows the players to cover as much of the ground as possible. 2 defenders at the back are there to not only defend but also to run the game from the back. Every player has to be very active in 5-sided games.

Therefore, 2 defenders ensure that they cover opposition players as well as make chances for their forwards. 1 midfielder is also there for extra defensive as well as offensive support.

Meanwhile, the single striker aims to trouble opposing defenders and also block keeper’s sight by playing right next to him. A long ball at this situation can greatly confuse the keeper leading to a goal.  

How to Counter-Attack | Tactical Analysis 

We are going to talk about 2 aspects over here. High press and Low press. The kind of press can really determine how often a team initiates counter-attack. This not only applies to 11-sided games, but counter-attack in 5-a-side game is also determined by the way a team presses the opponents.

The first kind of press is known as High-Press. In this tactic, players press right from the front. The striker runs at the defenders and forces them to make mistakes.

Meanwhile, midfielders also step up and leave little to no passing spaces for opposing team members. This can help by letting the pressing team win the ball very high up on the pitch. Therefore, a counter-attack is initiated.  

The other type of press is Low-Press. All the players including the strikers stay in their box and defend against the team. Low-Press is best applied when you have to defend your lead.

Both of these press types apply to both football and futsal. As a matter of fact, many teams depend upon low press to initiate maximum counter-attack in 5-a-side. This kind of press is most useful when you have a pacey striker you can quickly accelerate when the attack is initiated.  


This is some very important information regarding counter-attack in 5-a-side games. As mentioned above, the tactics can change depending upon the in-game situation.

However, counter-attack in 5-a-side is still the most common tactic in this format. Teams playing at a higher level depend upon possession football. Others have very skilful forwards who are able to dribble 2-3 players and finish the ball. Still, we can all agree that counter-attacking in 5-a-side is a treat to watch.  


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