Explaining different football scenarios

Exploring Different Football Scenarios: Full Guide

Each football team tries to impose his own playing style and to take control of the match. However, there are different football scenarios that occur during the game. When those situations happen, the team must adapt its play and react appropriately. Your tactic and formation must be flexible and capable to react to as many football scenarios as possible.

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How and which tactical idea will a team, group of players or individual apply during the game. It depends on countless factors. The most important factor is your score. Tactical determination during the match depends on whether the team has a positive or negative result.

Football scenarios you always have to keep in mind and have adequate plan for them are:

  • When Winning
  • When Losing
  • Draw Result situation
  • Extra-Time situation
  • Penalties
  • Red and Yellow Cards

When Winning

In the event of a lead during the match, the team has control of the match at its feet. In these situations, the primary goal of the team is to preserve the active result. The team then has no reason to rush and the goal is to keep possession of the ball. A team that has an active result should control the rhythm of the match. And force a match with a slower pace. Keeping the possession of the ball gives you the advantage and control over the ball. The opponent is forced to constantly chase the ball. When the team has the ball under its control, it controls the situation on the field and the game.

The leading team often decides to leave the field initiative to the opponent and wait for the opportunity to counterattack. Consciously, the initiative is given to the opponent, and after their mistake, they quickly move to the counterattack. A counterattack requires a quick transformation of offensive players. And usually involves a small number of players in the final (2-3 players). The opponent, chasing the result, often leaves a lot of space in his half, which can be used with a counterattack.


In case of a positive result, coaches often put another player in the back line of the team. In this way, they want to strengthen their defence. The coach wants to reduce the manoeuvring space of the opposing team and outnumber their attackers. Also in these situations, the midfield is often reinforced by taking one attacker out, and putting defensive midfielder in the game.

In the case of an active score, the team generally applies passive defence tactics. This tactic is used when you want to slow down the rhythm of the game, when the team is not well physically prepared, when the opponent is very strong and you want to keep the active result. This tactic requires grouping a number of players in a way to cover empty space. Another way of this tactic is to form a zone. The zone includes 7-8 players who stand close to their own goal and aim to slow down the opponent’s attack and take the ball away.

One tactic that is often used when you have the lead, the players use every interruption to delay the game and spend as much time as possible. This trend has become quite common when the team has a positive result. Simulating injuries, slow throwing of the ball back in the game, shooting the ball after the break, the goalkeeper’s delay of shooting the ball back in the game, are the means of this tactic. This is not something that is against the rules of the game, but it contradicts the rules of fair play. Referee may warn players if he feels it is appropriate, maybe even show the yellow card.

When Losing

In case of a negative result, the goal of the team is definitely to score a goal and get back to the game. To achieve that, the team must take the initiative on the field. It is usually said that all tactics go through the window in case of a negative result, especially if that happens in the first few minutes of the game. Therefore, the team is forced to change tactics and the way it plays, because they must try to return back in the game and turn the score around.

The tactic of the team is to quickly take the ball away from the opponent and have the possession of the ball. Pressing is the recommended way to take the ball away from your opponent. The pressure is on the last line of the opponent’s defence. Pressing requires synchronized action by all players and must stand close to the opposing player. Teams that lose usually apply high pressure and aggressive play.


A zone formed by 5 – 8 players on their own half of the field is also used to quickly take the ball. Immediately after taking the ball these players move and join the offensive players, creating counterattack. The coach of the losing team usually brings in another striker or player which has an offensive role on the field, trying to create a surplus of players in the opponent’s box.

Teams that are losing must have a fast flow of the ball and create a surplus on a certain part of the field in order to create a chance. The team should not allow the opponent to slow down the rhythm but with constant pressure should force the opponent to make a mistake.

The losing team often gets nervous and chases the score with long passes play. In these situations, defensive players often switch to attack and try to shift the burden of the play to the opponent’s half. Team should be careful in such situations as this allows the opponent to use the empty space and build a counterattack.

Draw Result Situation

In addition to the victory of one or another team in a match, any football match can end in a draw, not the most exciting of football scenarios. It is a game where there are no winners and where each team gets one point on the table. In league matches, a draw is the final result, while in elimination matches, if it is a draw after 90 minutes of play, overtime is played.

This is the most dangerous result because teams are well balanced and one mistake can change the game. This is the football situation when you should be careful and play calm without making rush attacks. That way you risk to create a space behind your back line for the opponents to use and danger your goal.

Extra-Time Situation

Overtime in football is played in case of a draw after 90 minutes. They last 2 x 15 minutes. Usually the players are very exhausted after 90 minutes of play, so in overtime the rhythm of the game is much weaker. The team has to be quite careful in overtime because every mistake can be costly. Due to energy consumption, the team must have control of the game and possession and make the opponent run for the ball.

Fitness preparation is here of vital importance. A lot of teams physically fall in overtime and usually the team that is better physically prepared wins. That is why working on strength is a very important aspect of preparing for every game.


If the result after overtime is still a draw, a penalty is taken. In the case of a penalty, the referee chooses the goal on which the penalty will be taken. The captain of the team that wins the coin toss, the referee chooses which team will take the penalties first. Penalties are taken in five series and each team is obliged to determine five players to take penalties before the start of the penalty shootout. Only players who are on the field at the time of the end of extra time can be selected for shootout. The team that scores the most goals after five series is the winner. If, even after five series, the result is a draw, the penalty will continue until one team scores takes a lead.

Penalties should be taken by the mentally strongest players of a team. The pressure in the execution of the penalty is huge and that is why mental stability plays a big role here. Even some of the greatest players in the history of football missed penalties due to pressure and lack of self-confidence. In addition to mental stability, you should choose the players with the best shot in the team. Before each elimination match, the goalkeeper of the opposing team should be thoroughly analysed and how he defends the penalties.

Players need to be familiar with this to know how and where to shoot. There are goalkeepers who find it harder to defend low shots or high shots and that is why goalkeeper analysis is very important. In the final parts of the training, the penalty shootout should be practiced so that the players are as ready as possible when the time comes to take them.

Red and Yellow Cards

Yellow Card

The most common of football scenarios, a yellow card, is received for a sharp foul on an opponent’s player or a pull for the opponent’s jersey. Often attackers try to extort a foul in favour of their team by pretending to be fouled. In this case, the referee gives a yellow card for simulation. Often players try to prevent a dangerous action with a foul in order to prevent the opponent from scoring a goal. In this situation, the yellow card is given to the defensive player. A yellow card is considered a warning and the player who receives this card can continue to play in that match.

Player that got the yellow card must be careful now. Another mistake and he will get a second yellow card and he is eliminated from the game. This is extremely important when a defender gets a yellow card, because they are in constant duel game with opponents. This gives the opponent’s attackers the upper hand they will try to exploit. Sometimes a good solution is to make a substitution as this will keep the level of pressure of defenders.

Two Yellow Cards/Red Card

If a player receives two yellow cards during the match, a red card automatically follows and he is obliged to leave the field immediately. Also, if a player receives a direct red card, he is obliged to leave the field immediately. A red card means a disqualification before the end of the match without the right to substitute. The player who receives a red card must leave the field, technical area and must immediately go to the locker room. If a player expresses offensive or violent expressions towards an opponent or a referee, some form of inappropriate behaviour, he will receive a red card. If a player receives a direct red card he is usually suspended for a few games.

This is one of the football scenarios you would wish to avoid at any cost. If your team has a player less in the field, this will give your opponents advantage and more space to exploit. Depending on the position of the player who got the red card, the manager usually makes a substitution that should make a balance in the game. If a defender gets a red card, probably another defender will come in instead of attacker, etc. What will be the decision depends not only on the excluded player’s position, but also from the conditions of the game at that moment, do you have a lead or you are losing the match, how much time has left on the clock…


Different football scenarios require complex analysis of all conditions and information available before making the right decision. These are decisions that influence the rest of the game and often there is no room for mistakes.

Head coach should practice each of the football scenarios with his players during training sessions. Analysis of these situations will prepare the team upfront and make players ready when they occur. Also, you can test different responses to situations and choose the best alternative. Practicing different football scenarios will make your team more flexible and confident when they happen.

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