Marking (association Football) - Zonal Marking

Zonal marking is a defensive strategy where defenders cover an area of the pitch rather than marking a specific opponent. If an opponent moves into the area a defender is covering, the defender marks the opponent. If the opponent leaves this area, then marking the opponent becomes the responsibility of another defender.

The biggest advantage of zonal marking is its flexibility. When the team regains possession of the ball, players are still in their positions and can start an attack more quickly. Communication is very important when zonal marking is used, to ensure that no gaps are left in the defensive coverage. Zonal marking is more difficult when defending set pieces such as free kicks and corners, and most teams change to man marking in these situations.

The formation used by a team may dictate whether or not to use zonal marking. Teams playing 4-4-2 usually operate a zonal marking system, but teams playing a sweeper do not. Amongst professional teams zonal marking is the most common system; 15 of the 16 teams that reached the knockout stages of the 2004 UEFA Champions League used zonal marking.

Training methods to develop this technique include the coloured cones and the 5-metre rope. The coloured cone is set up by having certain colours set out in sections of the pitch, each player will be put in the coloured section and will not be allowed to leave it. The 5-metre rope is a piece of equipment where the four defenders are attached by a rope which means they are used to staying and working together.

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