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Defending in soccer

How to get better at soccer defense: Battle Hard

Know your duties in defense, stay goal-side of the attacker, put your body on the line, and be brave. Get better by improving your fitness, strength, speed, and timing.

Follow this guide to know what your duties are as a defender. Each position has different roles to play. 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.

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.

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soccer field infographic
Soccer field Info-graphic

Qualities of a good soccer defender

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. You can be tall and small whilst being strong in challenges and able to work as a unit.

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 goal is like a goal being scored for you then you have 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 best to be 6 feet or more. For a full-back, you can be tall or short, but most of the 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 stud might catch your face.

1 v 1 Defending Technique

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 have a chance to poke the ball away.

The distance away from the attacker will depend on your speed and their speed. If they are lightning-quick, keep 2 yards away and reduce that to 1 if you have a better pace than them. It is important that you are 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 ground in a slide tackle, but make sure that you have a 99% chance of getting the ball if nobody is covering behind you. The last thing you want to do if leave them one on one with the goalkeeper or with more players than the defenders.

Soccer Defense Drills

Defensive drills are to test the players in situations that occur during a game. Having fewer defenders than attackers really put the 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.

3 on 2 drill scaled
3 v 2 Soccer Drill

Soccer Defense Positions

The types of positions that you can play as a defender are, center back, full back, wing back, sweeper, and defensive midfield.

Center Back

A key part of the defensive unit, the center back operates in front of the goalkeeper. They are the last inline before the goal. They act 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.

Full Back

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. Full backs are most likely to slide tackle the ball out of play.

Wing Back

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-round players as they have many duties to cover along the flank of the field. The attributes required are crossing and stamina.

Sweeper

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 is a responsible position because they organize the defense and protect the keeper.

Defensive Midfield

Some defensive midfielder 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.

Soccer Defense Players

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.

Sergio Ramos

Virgil Van Dijk

Marcelo

Knowledge of your all-around game will improve your game in defense – if you know what the striker will do, you’ll know what’s coming. For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

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