3:2:1 defence was invented by Krešo Pavlin from Zagreb.

The story goes that he came to this idea

by watching high schoolers play a free, unorganised game without supervision from a coach.

Vlado Stenzel made it famous at the beginning of the 1970s, and it has become a trademark of all major successes of Croatian and Ex. YUG handball, in the National Team or on a club level.


From that moment, up to the turn of the century, this type of defence was the trademark of all club-level and national team successes in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia, and it (temporarily?) left the spotlight after 2004, when Croatia won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens.



Triangular movement of the front line is the trademark of the 3:2:1 defence.

In a good 3:2:1 defense, the front line of the defence effectively performs triangle movement,

and in the bad, the defenders are not good at it.

Thus, the foundation of good front line play is the fast and aligned triangle movement of the defenders, the most important ability for effective triangle movement is agility of the player, and the key biomechanical element is cross step.

All of these prerequisites are the same for centre half (CH), especially if the attack is played with 2 line players.

This is what we see after 5 minutes of watching the match.

Is a good triangle movement of the front line a cause or effect?

If we think of the cause,

we will base our learning of the 3:2:1 defense on the persistent repetition of the triangle movement for the sake of automation,

and as the cross step enables the effective triangle movement,

we will persistently practice the cross step.

Is the triangular movement the cause of a good defence or a consequence of the fulfilment of responsibility we set for our players?

We think it is the latter

and that is why we don’t teach the 3:2:1 defence this way,

but rather as a division of responsibility.


The height of sophistication is simplicity.

– Clare Boothe Luce –

What are the responsibilities of the front line?

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