Pitch Dish

Costa Rica’s Killer Offside Trap

Playing an effective Offside Trap can be a perilous game. Even if it works 95% of the time, it could still cost you the game the one time it doesn’t.

So what makes a good offside trap?

For an offside trap to work the defensive line needs to have constant awareness of three things:

(1) Where the other defenders are; (2) where the opposing forwards are; and (3) when the opponents are likely to play the ball forward. That’s why the offside trap is best reserved for experienced teams with a back line that has played together before.

The critical importance of communication cannot be overstated.

The fullbacks, centerbacks and goalkeeper need to keep a constant eye on each other’s positions and keep each other informed by shouting loudly and crisply. Usually, one of the more experienced central defenders will make the decision to step up and when he does, the others need to follow instantly. The slightest delay could be the difference between a goal and free kick.

Defenders need to pick their spots.

It’s very difficult to keep an effective offside trap going for 90 minutes. There are times when defending deeper is simply a safer tactic.

And at the center of any offside trap is that you can’t even think of trying it unless your defense has played together for a LONG TIME – such as the Costa Rican National Team. It is too easy to screw it up – for just one defender to get tired and not pay attention just one time.

But when played correctly, it is devastating. Just look at the the numbers below at how much better Costa Rica was compared with the other finalists:


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