We use cookies

By continuing to browse ihfeducation.ihf.info, you agree to our terms of use , privacy policy and the use of cookies. For more information, please review our cookie policy.



Coaches / Analysis / Details

Active defence: Immediately disrupting the timing of the first positional attack

By Dietrich Späte, IHF CCM Chairman


In today’s handball, flexible active defensive strategies from a basic formation are part of many teams’ tactical repertoire. We have been observing different defensive strategies at this year’s Men’s World Championship. Some examples:

  • Active defensive strategies aim to immediately disrupt the opponents’ first positional attack and perfect timing of tactical triggering actions. This puts pressure on the attack from the very beginning and aims, for example, to force the attack into passive play during their subsequent actions.
  • Active defensive strategies also aim to immediately pressure the attacking team in empty goal situations (six against six without goalkeeper) after a two-minute suspension. It is interesting to see that some of today’s teams have started to change their defensive tactics in such situations.
  • Active defensive strategies aim to control key players of the opposing team’s attack.

The following videos feature some first examples of such strategies from the preliminary round matches of the 2019 Men’s World Championship in Germany and Denmark:


Video 1: Forcing the attack into passive play (Angola)

(Angola – Qatar)

When the right wing moves to the line, Angola’s defenders act very offensively against Qatar’s back-court players. However, depending on the situation, their quick and proficient legwork also enables them to act towards their own goal and, for example, block potential gaps and prevent the line player from breaking through.

Again and again they manage to block passing routes and force the attack into passive play (see forewarning signals shown by the referees).

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/dgE4m9uNyb9


Video 2: Disrupting the attack’s tactical triggering actions (Qatar)

(Angola – Qatar)

When the centre back starts to cross with the line player, Qatar’s right number three defender (number 7) offensively defends against the left back (number 10) who moves towards the centre. When the right back receives the ball, the left number three defender even briefly acts in a man-to-man defence against the left back. At the same time, the right number two defender (number 97) also acts offensively against the player at centre back.

Although the defence disrupts the timing of the triggering action, the attack still uses the bigger spaces in the close-range zone to play a pass to the line.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/mqbDyOnrOW3


Video 3: Pressuring the positional attack in the last minute (Qatar)

(Angola – Qatar)

One minute before the end of the match, Qatar lead against Angola by only one goal. In the first positional attack, Angola’s right back tries to return to the left side. The right number two and left number three defenders immediately act offensively und block the passing routes. The attackers have to fall back to rebuild the attack. In this situation, the referees show the forewarning signal for passive play.

However, Angola’s left back manages to score directly from the free throw with a technically brilliant straight shot to the throwing-arm side.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/WsMZMRLwYVh


Video 4: Pressuring from a 5-1 defence (Argentina)

(Argentina – Hungary)

From a 5-1 defence, both Argentina’s number two defenders and their forward one defender immediately act offensively against Hungary who are still building up their positional attack. We can see clearly how Hungary’s back-court players are basically forced to move back to the centre line. Now, the centre back is forced into a challenge at the centre line, and the forward defender uses a skilful defensive technique to play the ball.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/KsnD9fprLJf


Video 5: Number two defender disrupts positional attack (Sweden)

(Sweden – Egypt)

When the right back plays a pass to the left back, Sweden’s left number two defender runs from the non-ball side into the centre back’s zone and blocks the passing route to the left back. Note that in such situations, many defenders try to disrupt the fluidity of the game by committing a foul. However, Sweden’s number two defender does not commit a foul and instead uses good positioning to force the centre back to dribble the ball. Now, the attacking team play a risky pass to line. Sweden’s defender moves around the line player and manages to intercept the pass.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/kuOjqLFIfi6


Video 6: Number two defender provokes a long pass and intercepts it (Sweden)

(Sweden – Egypt)

During the left back’s one-against-one situation, the left number two defender runs into the centre back’s zone and blocks the direct passing route. Behind him, the right back moves towards the open space. The number two defender anticipates the long pass and manages to intercept it by quickly moving back.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/lv6X8XHt8k7


Video 7: Preventing the cooperation with a dangerous back-court player (Spain)

(Spain – Iceland)

After the centre back and line player initiate the attack by crossing, both the left number three and the right number two defenders immediately act offensively against their opponents in the back court.

The right number two defender immediately moves closer to the left back to prevent the centre back from crossing with Iceland’s dangerous back-court player number 4 (Palmarsson). However, he still manages to quickly fall back and intercept a potential pass to the line.

After the free throw, the right number three defender now very offensively defends against Palmarsson at centre back. However, he stays with him too long and does not have enough time to switch to the crossing left back.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/sfafwbdw821


Video 8: Active defence by the forward defender from a 5-1 defence (Spain)

(Spain – Iceland)

Against Iceland’s six-against-six attack without a goalkeeper (empty goal), Spain temporarily switch to a more offensive 5-1 defence system, with the forward defender acting far out in the back court.

The forward defender again prevents a cross with the left back by staying close to Palmarsson at centre back. The left back plays a pass to the line player, as the left number two defender offensively blocks the passing route to the right back and the right number three defender acts far in front of the line player.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/HlMYGx8r5ki


Video 9: Preventing attackers from falling back after triggering actions (Spain)

Against Iceland’s six-against-six positional attack without goalkeeper (empty goal), Spain act very offensively right from the start to immediately pressure the attack. The offensive defenders still manage to quickly fall back and prevent the centre back from breaking through.

After the free throw, the centre back crosses with the line player. When the right back has the ball, the forward one and right number two defenders block the direct passing routes. This disrupts the timing and provokes a technical fault from the attack.

Video link: https://dartfi.sh/Dyrqsheffn0