When a loss of possession occurs a moment of opportunity exists for a team to exploit the space left vacant by the attacking team. The idea behind counter attacking is to gain possession of the ball and quickly play forward before the opposition can retreat and regroup. Counter attacking has certain advantages but is not for every team. Many factors need to be taken into consideration when developing a counterattacking style of play.
Strength of opposition – game plan may be to absorb pressure from stronger opponents and try to hit them on the break.
Opponents style of play / formation – examples include; the opposition may play high up the field with their back line offering a lot of space to exploit in behind, teams may have less mobile defenders, teams may play with less numbers at the back, midfielders may be poor at tracking back etc. etc.
Physical attributes of players – counter attacking requires the ability to play the ball forward to a player or players that can hold on to the ball to allow teammates to cover the ground to join the attack. Requires a high level of mobility from many players. Teams that have the luxury of extremely quick forwards may use them to run at the opposition back line.
Technical and tactical attributes of players – foremost, players must have the ability to quickly and accurately play the ball forward either behind or through the opponents’ defense. If the players do not accurately find their targets the counter attack will simply result in a loss of possession.
Field size and condition – Smaller fields may not offer the space to exploit on the counter attack. Playing on a poor surface may force teams to utilize a counter attacking style because the surface is not conducive to the passing build-up game.
Game situations – certain situations offer favorable opportunities to counter attack. These include; defensive free-kicks and corner kicks when the opposition has pushed players forward. Late in a game when the opposition is down by a goal, they may push players forward leaving space to exploit. Playing against an opponent that utilizes a lot of players in their attacks (fullbacks, extra midfielders).