Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

When size is the difference – Roberto Carlos v Jan Koller

David Clarke

A cup game involving one of my Under-10s teams this week ended up giving me plenty to think about. Knockout matches can see your team coming up against all manner of sides, offering different challenges both in terms of technique and tactics. We’ve played some great teams in this cup run and learnt a lot from our opponents.

The weekend match saw us take on a side who were top of the league above us – in other words the top dogs in our age group. But watching the first 10 minutes of the game, you wouldn’t have known it. We out-passed our opponents and it was only due to some fabulous saves from their goalkeeper that the scores remained level.

That said, they had a very strong striker and a big midfielder – neither were overweight, just big for their age. Between them, the pair seemed to have the ball all of the time. They were effective with it and slowly got on top.

While they presented a formidable obstacle, if we were playing this team every week we would win more often than not, because as a unit we pride ourselves on the ability to change tactics as the game develops. And over time in the opponents’ team, the two larger players would gradually lose their advantage as other players catch them up in size.

Anyway, as the game progressed, we found that when the big midfielder ran at our defence each defender would turn sideways fearful that a powerful shot was going to hit him. The result was an easy goal against us. At the end of the game the backline all agreed that had they tried to tackle him they would have been able to win the ball, because his skill level was less than theirs.

This is a situation they will eventually get used to and big players will hold no fear for them. When we looked back at the game and analysed each half (both of which were relinquished 2-1), it seems a conclusive defeat, but it was a match we felt we could – and probably should – have won. I suppose, in a sense, we were the winners because, as a team, we learned a lot more about ourselves than our opponents did. One of the dads came up to me at the end and told me he thought the performance was encouraging considering we were playing the ‘best’ team in our age group.

And in many ways he was right, we had passed well and our tactical planning was, for the most part, thorough. And next time we play a team with bigger players, we will put our latest lesson in place, namely to stand up and not be intimidated.

Watch this video of Roberto Carlos 5ft 6in v Jan Koller 6ft 7.5in below and see who heads the ball:


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