To be better in defense, stay the goal-side of the attacker, put your body on the line, and be brave. Get better by improving your fitness, strength, speed, and timing.
As a defender, your first duty is to defend the goal and when you get a chance to support the attack as a wide defender.
Here are some of the key points from the article;
- Mental qualities
- Physical qualities
- How to be a better defender
- Defensive roles and responsibilites
Take part in the soccer drill below to test yourself in the toughest situations like the pros. Practice as much as you can and with good quality players to push on your game.
Mental Qualities of a good soccer defender
Many qualities are talked of in a good defender, but it’s important to separate the two – mental and physical. The following qualities are a trait of a person – it’s something you naturally have and is difficult to learn to be of a high standard.
- Mentally tough
- Think smart and fast
Those qualities are a mindset, a way of thinking, and being. To be great as a defender, then you will defend with this attitude. Some of the best defenders to play soccer only had the mental qualities to a high standard, their physical playing qualities were average.
A good defender must be strong, aggressive, brave, and a team player. It takes great determination to be a great defender, a willing nature to get to the ball first.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Like a striker celebrates goals, you must feel the same way when you stop an attacker from scoring;
Physical Qualities of a good soccer defender
Skillful defenders are a part of the modern game. Not only are you to be able to tackle and head the ball. You must be strong against any type of attacker. As fast as the fastest attacker – or be clever enough to read the danger and get goalside.
Passing out from the back is a great asset – a defender that can turn defense into attack with one pass is a key player. And control – if a ball can be stopped in a second and put under control – the ball is literally at your feet.
Some soccer players are naturally good at defending – if you don’t like to get beat then that could be you. If blocking a shot on a goal is like a goal being scored for you then you’ve got the mindset of a great defender.
Along with the mental attributes, the physical aspects play a part. If you want to play center back then it is best to be 6 feet or more. For a full-back, you can be tall or short, but most of them are short because they have the legs to accelerate up and down the field.
Some of the best defenders are willing to put their bodies on the line, literally!
Players will do anything to score, so you do all you can to stop them, even if that means diving into a crowd of players when a stud might catch your face.
How to Be a Better Defender in Soccer
To get better as a defender you must have the dedication to learn, improve and persist. Make small changes in your game every week, game by game to see an improvement over a year.
Good defenders learn how they can improve and put it into practice for the following game. Know your capabilities – if the attacker is faster than you, standoff them two yards. If the attacker wants to make runs behind your defense – play the offside trap.
Being clever in soccer is the best solution to become better quickly.
Read The Game
If you can read the game better than the attackers or midfielders then you can win. This is how the professionals stand out from the normal defender – they see danger before anyone else.
When you watch a soccer game, just focus on one defender for 10 minutes each. What are they doing when they don’t have the ball. What position are they taking up – is it high or wide? When the ball is going in their zone, how do they react?
Learn from the best by watching them play. Focus your attention on specific parts of the game instead of a whole overview. Get your tactics right and you’ll be one step ahead.
Know The Rules
To read the game you must know all the rules of soccer. It’s like playing cards, if you don’t know what the ace does, how can you win. Be one step ahead of the rest of the players and know when you can do something and when you can’t.
Rules are there to guide us, protect us, and make the game better. Use the rules to your advantage.
Be Good At 1 v 1 Defending
When defending 1 v 1 you must keep between the attacker and your goal. Be close enough to block a shot, but not so close that the attacker can get past you. Be on the lookout for other dangers as the play changes.
You need to angle your body so that you protect the danger zone. This way you can lead the attacker away from where they want to go. Keep an eye on the player and the ball and when the attacker looks up, you’ve got a chance to poke the ball away.
- The distance away from the attacker will depend on your speed and speed. If they are lightning-quick, keep 2 yards away and reduce that to 1 if you’ve got a better speed than them.
It’s important that you’re good at sprinting in bursts. A player may be slower in a sprint race, but they might have the acceleration to get a couple of yards in front of you so that they can take a shot.
Some players go to the ground in a slide tackle, but make sure that you’ve got a 99% chance of getting the ball if nobody is covering behind you. The last thing you want to do is leave them one on one with the goalkeeper or with more players than the defenders.
Good Defensive Drills for Soccer
Defensive drills are to test the players in situations that occur during a game. Having fewer defenders than attackers really put pressure on the backline.
Practice 20-yard sprints and they are the most used distances when running. Below is the most common type of soccer drill that you can practice your defending.
The numbers can range from 2 v 3, 1 v 2, 3 v 4, and so on. This drill is used by all professional clubs – it replicates the hardest of situations in a game. If you can defend with one less player than the attackers, then you can do it against an even number of them.
The defenders’ job is to clear the ball and the attackers to score. This drill is fun for both the attackers and defenders.
Soccer Defense Positions and Roles
The types of positions that you can play as a defender are, center back, full back, wing back, sweeper, and defensive midfield.
What Is the Role of A Center Back in Soccer?
A key part of the defensive unit, the center back operates in front of the goalkeeper. They are the last in line before the goal.
They act as a 2 in a 4-4-2 formation or as a 3 in a 5-3-2 formation. Normally 6 feet plus, they are good at heading and strong in a challenge.
Virgil Van Dijk – Commanding Center Back
What Is the Role of A Full Back in Soccer?
Full backs play at either side of the center backs in a typical 4 four at the back. In Italy, they operate defensively but in Spain, they are used for an overlap to provide an extra player in attack.
You can be of any height but you must be quick! Some of the trickiest players you face are wingers, so you must be on your toes. Fullbacks are most likely to slide tackle the ball out of play.
Marcelo – Skillful Full Back
What Is the Role of A Wingback in Soccer?
A typical wing-back plays as part of a back 5. With three in the center of defense, they have fewer responsibilities when defending.
They are good all-around players as they have many duties to cover along the flank of the field. The attributes required are crossing and stamina.
What Is the Role of A Sweeper in Soccer?
A sweeper is not often used because of the problems with offside, as they are the last player. They are normally used with five at the back and the central one is the sweeper.
They clear a danger that comes the way of the goal. It’s a responsible position because they organize the defense and protect the keeper.
What Is the Role of A Defensive Midfielder in Soccer?
Some defensive midfielders play up and down the field. There is some that drop back when your team has possession. Guardiola uses this system, to allow the full-backs to advance forward leaving the two center backs and defensive midfielders to protect the goal.
This position requires strength, stamina, and attention.
Here is a selection of some of the best defenders in the world. Watch their qualities to learn how they do it. They are all very different, but effective at shutting out the strikers.