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Where is the space? Part 2: The Diagonal

Updated: Aug 10, 2019

Where is the Space? A New Passing Perspective

Part 2: The Diagonal: A Weapon Against Tight Spaces

By Marcelo Antonelli


In order to complete a penetrating pass, one would normally look for the spaces “behind” the defenders. But, sometimes, the space is right in front of them. In this article, we will explain the concept of the diagonal in Futsal and its application on the soccer field.


When we write “diagonal” in Futsal, it does not mean any pass diagonal in relation to the sideline. After all, most passes (unless completely vertical or horizontal) are somehow made diagonally in relation to the sidelines.

Let’s look at an example. For pedagogical purposes, we will use a 2v2 scenario (the same initial scenario that we used previously in Part 1 of this series (“The Parallel”).

Figure 1: Player (02) plays to Player (01) and will run to receive back.

Figure 2: Player (02) initiates the run, and is followed by Player (B). Player (A) tries to pressure Player (01).

Figure 3: Player (02) makes a change of direction and then starts running forward again. Player (01) plays a ball with pace to Player (02)’s front foot. Player (02)’s first touch deflects the ball, causing the ball to gain a trajectory forward and beating Player (B).

At the same time that Player (02) makes a change in direction, Player (01) may be moving inside to gain a better angle to complete the pass. To try to keep the concept more simple, we chose to not show this movement in this particular figure. We will wait and look into this further in the next article (Part 3 of the series “Where is the Space?”).

Let’s focus our attention now on Player (B). Independent of Player (B)’s body position, let’s consider that everything between Player (B) and their defending goal is “behind” Player (B) and that everything between Player (B) and their attacking goal is “in front of” Player (B). The figure below illustrates this:

Figure 4: From your perspective, when looking at the figure, everything to the “left” of the orange line is “in front of” Player B. Everything to the “right” of the orange line is “behind” Player B.

Therefore, the penetrating pass is played just “in front” of the defender. This is possible because Player (B) was moving backward and the pass was made with pace, counting on the first touch of Player (02) deflecting the trajectory of the ball and moving it forward.

Why is this important?

This is important because in a variety of scenarios, there is not available space behind, and often times players don’t “see” or consider these options.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Figure 5: Player (02) is running for a through ball and realizes that Player (03) is dropping and another player is ready to close the space higher on the field. Player (02) changes the direction of the run and creates space to receive the diagonal ball.

Players don’t always need to make a change of direction in order to receive a diagonal ball. It may work as long as one or more of these factors take place:

defenders are moving backward or are worried about the ball being played behind them

body position of the player receiving the ball is correct

there is enough pace on the ball to avoid an interception (counting on a deflection) and the first touch goes forward

Let’s take a look at another example:

Figure (6): Scenario A will work if defenders don’t drop fast enough or close the “split.” Scenario B won’t work because there is less space, and even if the through ball goes behind the defenders, the goalkeeper should pick up the ball. In this illustration, the use of a diagonal ball would be most effective (Scenario C).

In Futsal, this kind of scenario happens all of the time:

Figure 7: In this example, there would not be space for Player (5) to receive the ball behind Player (B). But, with the right movements and pass, a diagonal ball could be connected.



Training the concept of the diagonal ball promotes a set of good habits, which include:

accurate passes with pace

runs before the ball

good body position facing forward whenever possible

accurate first touch taking space when possible

We often watch soccer games where a great number of penetrating passes fail because players don’t really make a clear choice between playing “in front of” or “behind” a defender; or because they are not applying some of the items described above.

The Diagonal Ball is one of the hardest things from Futsal to explain without motion.

Please watch the video below for many different examples of diagonal balls used in high-level Futsal and soccer matches (as defined by “Soccer Powered by Futsal,” which is based on high-level Futsal strategies).

In our next article, we will discuss how combining the concepts of The Diagonal and The Parallel can be a great tool for developing a player’s reading of the game and creativity.

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