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Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl

Last minute BS lesson... the too-high offside trap

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Jun 06, 12:29 PM

With just 90 minutes to go until the England game kicks off there is little time to lose. Here is a quick second lesson in the art of talking confidently about football without talking complete rubbish (aka: HTBSAFWTB - an occasional series).

Part II: The high offside line
1. Last night both Poland and Germany suffered due to their back four playing too "high" - that is, too far away from their own goal. Germany in particular let in two from Paulo Wanchope because of this. So how does it work...

2. The back four should not always be "flat" but should go flat when the centre-back in charge of the line calls for the offside trap (the master of this art was Arsenal's Tony Adams in the 1990s)
3. The danger of doing this too far away from your goal is that, if a player beats the trap as Wanchope did last night, there is a lot of space between him and the goalie and he is likely to score.
4. If you are too far up the pitch there is more likelihood that a player will dribble round the outside of you, and when the outside back "tracks back" to cover him, the offside trap is negated.
5. If you go too high up the pitch you get pulled ragged by having to actually challenge the man about to put the ball through: Germany, alert to this, twice backed off from the man with the ball: result 2x soft (ish) goals.
6. The new interpretation of offside - that a man level with the last defender is onside, and players moving away from the goal are onside - was rigidly applied last night; it is not as rigidly applied in the Premiership and the Bundesliga - hence the despairing raised arms of the German players. In both cases Wanchope was technically onside.
7. The offside trap relies on all players hearing the call. There are various footballing epithets for those who don't - and the German right back did not in the first goal they conceded last night. Same epithets can be applied to linesmen who call the offside wrong. None of those epithets can be printed on this blog - however you have to have them at the ready, particularly if you are watching in a social situation like a Big Screen venue, or a pub.

What to say: "I hope England's back four don't start pushing up the pitch like the Germans did last night because the FIFA refs are clearly interpreting the offside rule strictly - and as Terry Venables used to say - it's better to be too deep than too high."

What not to say: "Who is Tony Adams?"

And finally: a quick primer on the offside rule and trap (for American readers etc).

You are offside if there is no opposing player between you and the opposing goal (apart from the goalie)
If someone passes the ball to you in that position it will be a free kick against you.
The offside trap is when all four defensive players form a straight line and move forward, putting the attacker offside.

So if player A has the ball; you are player B and players XXXX are the opposing back four (and the goal is towards the bottoom of the page, you are offside:


To beat the trap you have to start like this (or a variation of it)
and run past the back four (XXXX) just as the ball is kicked

Don't get drunk. Wear sun cream. Stay cool. Don't use too many epithets.

Comments  Post your comment

An American football fan here, you're primer is great for novices but your summary is a bit misleading.

You say "You are offside if there is no opposing player between you and the opposing goal (apart from the goalie)"

Which is not acurate you are offside if you are beyond the last defender when the ball is passed to you. You should also have emphasized that the critical position is where you are when your teammate passes the ball.

Or am I misinterpreting? FIFA changes the interpretation of the offsides rule so frequently that it's hard to keep track of it.

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