Tuesday, 16 Apr 2024

The Versatility of 3-4-3 Formation for U13 to U18 Girls

Football tactics and formations have evolved over the years, from the traditional 4-4-2 to the recent popularity of 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. However, one formation that has caught the attention of many coaches, including myself, is the 3-4-3. In this article, we will explore the rationale behind using the 3-4-3 formation specifically for U13 to U18 girls’ teams.

The Importance of Adaptation

When it comes to youth players who are not part of professional academies, it is crucial to build a formation that suits the strengths and weaknesses of the players at hand. Additionally, considering the level of competition and the style of play in the league is equally important.

Characteristics of Play

To understand why the 3-4-3 formation works well for U13 to U18 girls, we need to analyze the characteristics of play at this age and level. These characteristics may vary, but some common trends can be observed.


  • Average shot stoppers
  • Poor on crosses
  • Decent distribution but often poor technique on punts and throws
  • Poor control of the box
  • Lack of communication with strikers
  • Tendency to lose awareness of proper starting position when opponents regain possession
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  • Defenders struggle with decision-making on when to press or drop
  • Limited overlap from outside backs into the attacking third
  • Unpredictable clearances leading to second chances for opponents
  • Poor communication, especially with the goalkeeper
  • Vulnerable during corner kicks
  • Insufficient cover for outside backs from central defenders
  • Strong in 1v1 situations unless faced with faster opponents
  • Less comfortable on the ball, leading to long balls without intention
  • Better heading ability among defenders compared to midfielders and strikers
  • Slow to push up and take space after the ball moves out of their defensive third

In Midfield

  • Scrappy gameplay with frequent 50-50 challenges due to bad first touches and ill-advised passes
  • Reluctance to move the ball horizontally across the field
  • Limited ability of midfielders to support strikers effectively
  • Transition play is average at best, relying more on individual efforts

Attacking Third

  • Reliance on quick strikers winning footraces to long balls over the top
  • Lack of synergy among strikers
  • Attacks often consist of two or three players, leaving gaps between attackers and those watching
  • Poor crossing accuracy
  • High number of second chances created from poor clearances
  • Low finishing efficiency
  • Predictable corner kicks
  • Subpar shooting while running at pace
  • Lack of sophistication in 1v1 battles and playing with backs to goal
  • Inadequate decision-making from wide players regarding crossing and passing laterally

Adapting the 3-4-3 Formation

Taking into account the characteristics of play and the strengths and weaknesses of my U16 Gold 1 team, the 3-4-3 formation becomes an ideal choice. Here’s why:

  1. Goal control: By keeping three central defenders, we can defend against the majority of attacks that occur centrally and rely on our defenders’ strength in winning 1v1 battles.
  2. Crossing advantage: Our team possesses good crossers among the wide midfielders, providing additional targets for the strikers in the box.
  3. Goal-scoring opportunities: With three strikers, we increase our chances of capitalizing on poor clearances and creating scoring opportunities.
  4. Solid defense: The stay-at-home defenders offer defensive stability and prevent the opposition from stretching our backline with wide attacks.
  5. Artificial turf advantage: As most games are played on artificial turf, which tends to be faster, our high starting position for the goalkeeper allows us to sweep up long balls over the top.
  6. Exploiting weaknesses: By focusing on possession and providing numerous options for the ball carrier, we can take advantage of the weaknesses in our opponents’ style of play.
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Success and Considerations

The 3-4-3 formation has proven successful for my team, but it may not be suitable for every U13 to U18 girls’ team. It is essential to choose a formation and tactics based on the specific characteristics of your players and the level of play you face regularly. Identify your team’s strengths and pair them with a formation that exploits the weaknesses you observe in your opponents.


Q: Can the 3-4-3 formation be successful for U13 to U18 girls in all leagues?
A: No, the success of the 3-4-3 formation depends on various factors, including the players’ abilities and the style of play in the league. It is important to adapt your tactics accordingly.

Q: Are there any downsides to using the 3-4-3 formation?
A: As with any formation, there are potential disadvantages. Teams may attempt to stretch the backline and exploit the space left by the high positioning of the wide midfielders. It is crucial to address these issues through compact defending and effective communication among players.


The 3-4-3 formation offers a flexible and effective approach for U13 to U18 girls’ teams. By considering the characteristics of play and the strengths of your own team, you can create a system that maximizes your chances of success. Remember, adapting your formation to the players and the style of play is key. So, analyze the game, make informed decisions, and watch your team thrive on the football pitch.

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