1v1 Football Training Drills


1v1 Football Training Drills


One versus one (1v1) is one football skill that doesn’t come naturally to most players. Whilst speed is important, it is not the only factor that will determine the success of a player in 1v1. In addition to speed, 1v1 requires directional changes, deception and fluidity.

1v1 in football means one player with the ball at their feet trying to get passed an opponent without losing the ball. Players will find themselves in every game, where they must make a decision to either pass the ball or take on the opponent immediately before them. Taking on the opponent represents a higher risk than passing.

Done correctly, passing the ball will involve striking the ball to a team mate who presumably is in a better position.

The opponent, due to proximity and desire aims to take possession of the ball. As a result, attempting to beat the opponent may result in losing possession and therefore relegate them to a defensive position rather than attacking. This can mean more pressure and a higher risk of mistakes and conceding a goal.


My Coaching Philosophy

Coaches often ask, that when you coach a team where players have varying skill sets, do you train to the capabilities of the stronger ones or the less skilled ones. My philosophy on coaching is that your session plans are aimed at the capabilities of your best players. If the session plans aim at the less skilled players, then you bring the overall skill set down. You should always aim up (age appropriate).


Football Training Drills

1v1 Skill Introduction

This drill will appeal to all ages, though maybe more challenging for the younger or less experienced footballers.

1v1-Run-Turns-Shoot-Football DrillsEither in front of a goal, or in a grid 20 metres x 20 metres, players’ line up 6 yards out from the goal-line and 6 yards away from the goal post (see image).

  • Players run to a square 3 metres x 3 metres, 18 yards from and directly in front of the goal;
  • In this 3 metre x 3 metre grid they must complete 3 different turns with the ball; (step over, Maradona, roll back etc)

With the final turn towards the goal, they must take the ball out of the grid around a triangle 6 yards away and shoot at the goals and beat the goal keeper.

The triangle in front of the goals is reflective of a defender while the 3 turns simulate the kind of turns a player might employ to beat their opponent. Each will involve an element of speed, deception and fluidity.

Often players will get the speed right, but do an ineffectual turn and lose the ball. Alternatively, players may complete the turn slowly and their opponents are able to respond quickly enough to eliminate the effect of the deception.

As a result, repetition of this drill will allow players to develop turns at speed, incorporating deception and deliver fluid movement.


1v1 – Skill Training – On Small Field with Small Goals

This drill steps up from the introduction phase pitting 2 players against each other. Both attempt to score in their designated goal whilst foiling attempts by their opponent to do the same.


  • Grid 30 x 20m;
  • Players line up at corners diagonally opposite each other;
  • When the coach calls go. 1 player from each team must run around their nearest goal and into the field of play to retrieve the ball;
  • The ball is passed by the coach centrally, though usually favouring one team to reduce the likelihood of a clash in the middle;
  • Players use speed, deception, feints, turns and relevant first touch & shooting skills to score in their opponent’s goal.
  • When a goal is scored, the ball goes out or if more than 30 seconds has elapsed, play stops and the next pair commence (on coach’s call).

1v1 Skill Game

Like the 1v1 Skill Training drill, this drill adds an additional dynamic by having two one 1v1 games going simultaneously on the same field. In this case the grid will be a 5m x 5m square grid with goals in the middle of each side. 1 pair will run from one side to the other, the other pair across the alternate sides.


  • 25 metre x 25 metre grid
  • 4 goals in the middle of all sides
  • Opponents face off on opposite diagonal corners
  • When the coach calls go, they must run around the goal to their right and into the field of play and retrieve the ball;
  • They must try and score in their assigned goals again using speed, deception and fluidity to beat their opponent.
  • This time they also have to be mindful of the other pair, their position and their ball.
  • Neither pair is to intentionally interfere with the other 2 competing players.
  • When the ball goes out or is scored, players return to their corner.


Advanced 1v1 Skills

Speed or Acceleration?

As mentioned earlier, whilst speed is important, opponents will quickly adapt if this is the only skill you have in a 1v1 match up.  In fact it is usually less about speed, rather the change of speed or acceleration that will allow 1 player to get past their opponent. Running at full speed can be much easier to defend than when a player changes speed quickly.

Mixing it up, is one of the best ways to keep your opponent off guard. Deceiving them with tell-tale physical signals will allow you to create space for them to accelerate into. For example, dropping the shoulder to the right will move your opponent to their left. A quick change of direction to the left allows the player with the ball to a bit more space to run the ball, reducing the risk of losing it.

Space is your Friend

I am constantly telling young players that space is their friend. Too often, they feel they have to beat their opponent in close proximity. While they will often get passed them in close proximity, the real work is done a bit further away where they undertake feints to move their opponent into a position that makes it easier for them to get passed.

The Puppet Master

I often refer to the player with the ball as the puppet master. With every step they take with the ball, a movement in the same direction can usually be reflected in not just one opponent, but often the whole opposing team. This means the player with the ball is pulling their strings, sending them in whatever direction he or she may choose.

It doesn’t have to be changing the direction of the ball that allows you to move your opponents. Standing still with the ball at your feet and changing your physical position around the ball can have the same impact. If you move your body 90 degrees to the left of the ball it will suggest you are looking to play the ball in that direction. This has a great effect on moving your opponents quickly in that direction, leaving more space behind them if your team mates have maintained their position.

Feints and Deception

Players that are possess good acceleration whilst controlling the ball are more likely to succeed in a 1v1 scenario. Having said that, the absence of this doesn’t mean one cannot use other tricks within their kit bag to glean success. Stepping over the ball and changing direction with the alternate foot, side steps, (feinting one way and going the other), the so called Maradona turn (it seems many of the great players have a signature move Zidane, Cruyff, Ronaldinho etc) are all fantastic skills to master.

Mastering these skills can substitute at times for speed since often it maybe just a little space that is required to defeat an opponent t in a 1v1 scenario.

Mastering 1v1 in Soccer

Acceleration rather than speed is one of the key components in 1v1. Developing other skills such as feints, turns and deception will allow a player to become the most dangerous player on the park. Getting passed one opponent can often mean there is more of your team in front of you than their opponents. This increases the odds of maintaining possession and also scoring goals.

Googling Zidane, Maradona, Cruyff or Ronaldinho will provide some valuable examples of how successful players can become when skilled at 1v1.

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