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Defender (association football)

Defender (association football)

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Within the sport of association football, a defender is an outfield player whose primary role is to prevent the opposition from attacking.

There are four types of defender: centre back, sweeper, full back, and wing back. The centre back and the full back positions are essential in most modern formations. The sweeper and wing back roles are more specialized for certain formations.

Centre back


The jobs of the centre back, centre half, central defender, or stopper is to stop opposing players, particularly the strikers, from scoring, and to bring the ball out from their penalty area
Penalty area
The penalty area , is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends to each side of the goal and in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot , which is from the goal line, directly in-line with the centre of the goal...

. As their name suggests, they play in a central position.

The position was formerly referred to as centre half, although the emphasis of the centre half was more forward thinking in action. In the early part of the 20th century, when most teams employed the 2-3-5 formation, the two players at the back were called full backs and the row of three players in front of them were called half backs. As formations evolved, the central player in this trio, the centre half, moved into a more defensive position on the field, taking the name of the position with them. The right and left players in the trio were called the right half and left half respectively.

In the modern game, most teams employ two centre backs, stationed in front of the goalkeeper. There are two main defensive strategies used by centre backs: the zonal defence, where each centre back covers a specific area of the pitch, and man-to-man marking, where each centre back has the job of covering a particular opposition player.
  • Marking threats in their immediate area (zonal defending) or to mark a particular opposition player (man marking).
  • Making tackles on attacking players as the last line of defence against the opposition.
  • Intercepting dangerous crosses, shots and through passes that cause an immediate danger to the team.
  • Defending opposition corners and to stay in the opposition team's penalty box for corners and set pieces with headers.
  • To form the tactical base of the team. Coaches either choose to field the "line" of defence deep or further upfield. The choice of defensive line has great tactical implications in the professional game. A deep defensive line is considered a more conservative approach; however, it also means that the midfielders require to cover more ground in the game and risks conceding midfield territory to the opposition. A high defensive line allows teams to pin opposition teams into their own territory and apply pressure when chasing for a goal, however, it leaves the attacking team vulnerable to counter attacks by quick opposition players.
  • Maintain the defensive posture. Due to the advent of the offside rule in the modern game, defenders and centre-backs in particular need to ensure that the defensive line is strictly enforced when opposition attacking players are nearby. A defender that strays slightly behind the defensive line, for example, can "play" an opposition player onside and inadvertently create a scoring opportunity.
  • Playing a simple game. Due to their proximity to goal, centre backs need to avoid over-elaboration and play short and simple passes to their colleagues upfield as well as avoid playing passes square across the defence, where they are vulnerable to interception by an opposition player.

  • Height, good heading and jumping ability to contest balls in the air.
  • Strength, marking and tackling ability to deal with one-on-one threats.
  • Bravery and aggression to rush out and deal with any unexpected goal threats.
  • Ability to read the game as well as anticipate incoming threats. Centre backs need to balance the need to deal with any imminent threat from the opposition and the need to maintain the defensive posture.
  • Concentration. Centre backs need to focus on the task at hand and get interceptions, last-ditch tackles and headers correctly every time. They also need to ensure that they get a sure footing on the ball when clearing it so as to play it away from danger.
  • Passing. Under pressure, centre backs may need to call on competent passing skills to move the ball out to midfielders.

Sweeper (Libero)


The sweeper is a more versatile type of centre back who "sweeps up" the ball if an opponent manages to breach the defensive line. His position is rather more fluid than other defenders who man-mark their designated opponents. Because of this, the position is sometimes referred to as libero (from the Italian word meaning "free", as used by the sports journalist Gianni Brera
Gianni Brera
Giovanni Luigi "Gianni" Brera was an Italian sports journalist and novelist.-Biography:Brera was born in San Zenone al Po, near Pavia, the son of Carlo, a tailor, and Marietta Ghisoni...

). Though the sweeper may be expected to build counter-attacking moves, and as such requires better ball control and passing ability than a typical centre back, his talents are often confined to the defensive realm. For example, the catenaccio
Catenaccio
Catenaccio is a tactical system in football with an emphasis on defence. In Italian, catenaccio means "door-bolt", implying a highly organized and effective backline defense which is intended to prevent goals.-History:...

 system of play, used in Italian football in the 1960s, employed a purely defensive sweeper who only "roamed" around the back line.

Some sweepers move forward and distribute the ball up-field, while others intercept passes and get the ball off the opposition without needing to hurl themselves into tackles. In modern football, its usage has been fairly restricted, with few clubs in the biggest leagues using the position.

Full back


The full backs take up the holding wide positions and stay in defence at all times, until a set-piece. One on each side of the field. Their main task is to prevent opposition players crossing or cutting the ball back into the penalty area. In some defensive systems, full backs man-mark opponents. Most full backs are also expected to clear the ball to dissure danger in their penalty box, engaging in interplay with the wingers and providing headers in freekicks and corners.

In the traditional 2–3–5 team formation, the two players in the final row of defence before the goalkeeper were referred to as full backs. This formation is almost never used in the modern game, having been replaced largely by the four-man defence, but the term "full back" lives on — the full backs now occupy the back positions in the defensive line, with the old centre half [back] doubled-up to fill the central defensive position.

The traditional English full back was a large, strong man who would make substantial use of "hacking" – deliberately kicking the shins of opponents, a practice that was accepted as legal in Britain but not in other countries, and caused major controversy as the game became increasingly internationalized from the 1950s on. It is now effectively banned everywhere, and it is this in part that has given rise to a different set of defensive roles.

In the modern game, full backs have taken on a more offensive role than is the case traditionally. Wingerless formations such as the diamond 4-4-2 formation demand the full back to cover considerable ground up and down the flank. Some of the responsibilities of modern full backs include:
  • Provide a physical obstruction to opposition attacking players by shepherding them towards an area where they exert less influence. They may manoeuvre in a fashion that causes the opponent to cut in towards the centre back or defensive midfielder with his weaker foot, where he is likely to be dispossessed. Otherwise, jockeying and smart positioning may simply pin back a winger in an area where he is less likely to exert influence.
  • Making off-the-ball runs into spaces down the channels and supplying crosses into the opposing penalty box.
  • Throw ins are usually assigned to full backs.
  • Marking wingers and other attacking players. Full backs generally do not commit into challenges in their opponents' half. However, they aim to quickly dispossess the attacking players who have already breached the defensive line with a sliding tackle from the side. Markers must however avoid keeping too tight on opponents or risk disrupting the defensive organisation.
  • Maintaining tactical discipline by ensuring other team mates do not over run the defensive line and inadvertently play an opponent onside.
  • Providing a passing option down the flank, for instance, by creating opportunities for sequences like one-two passing moves.
  • In wingerless formations, full backs need to cover the roles of both wingers and full backs, although defensive work may be shared with one of the central midfielders.
  • Additionally, attacking full backs help to pin both opposition full backs and wingers deeper in their own half with aggressive attacking intent. Their presence in attack also forces the opposition to withdraw players from central midfield, which the team can seize to its advantage.


Due to the physical and technical demands of their playing position, successful full backs need a wide range of attributes, which make them suited for adaptation to other roles on the pitch. Many of the game's utility players, who can play in multiple positions on the pitch, are natural full backs. A rather prominent example is the Real Madrid full back Sergio Ramos
Sérgio Ramos
Sérgio Bruno Antunes Selores Ramos is a Portuguese basketball player.He measures 2.00 metres and plays as a Forward . He announced the end of his international career, after Portugal's exit from the EuroBasket 2007...

, who has played on both flanks as a full back and as a Defensive Midfeilder, and in central Defence throughout his illustrious career. In the modern game, full backs often chip in a fair share of assists with their runs down the flank when the team is on a counterattack. The more common attributes of full backs, however, include:
  • Pace and stamina to handle the demands of covering large distances up and down the flank.
  • A healthy work rate and team responsibility.
  • Marking and tackling abilities and a sense of anticipation.
  • Good off-the-ball ability to create attacking opportunities for his team by running into empty channels.
  • Dribbling ability. Many of the game's eminent attacking full backs are excellent dribblers in their own right and occasionally deputise as attacking wingers.
  • Player intelligence. As is common for defenders, full backs need to decide during the flow of play whether to stick close to a winger or maintain a suitable distance. Full backs that stay too close to attacking players are vulnerable to being pulled out of position and leaving a gap in the defence. A quick passing movement like a pair of one-two passes will leave the channel behind the defending full-back open. This vulnerability is a reason why wingers considered to be dangerous are double-marked by both the full-back and the winger. This allows the full back to focus on holding his defensive line.

Wing back


The wingbacks are a modern variation on the full back with heavier emphasis on attack. The name is a portmanteau of "winger" and "fullback". They are usually employed in a 3-5-2 formation, and could therefore be considered part of the midfield. But they may also be used in a 5-3-2 formation and therefore have a more defensive role.

In the evolution of the modern game, wingbacks are the combination of wingers and fullbacks. As such it is one of the most physically demanding positions in modern football. Wingbacks are often more adventurous than full backs and are expected to provide width, especially in teams without wingers. A wingback needs to be of exceptional stamina, be able to provide crosses upfield and defend effectively against opponents' attacks down the flanks. A defensive midfielder is usually fielded to cover the advances of wingbacks.

The best defender in the world


In the ranking FIFA developed in the late 2004 were included to 5 defenses among the top 50 Players of the twentieth century according to the IFFHS.

Nº, country, player, position
  1.  Germany - Franz Beckenbauer
    Franz Beckenbauer
    Franz Anton Beckenbauer is a German football coach, manager, and former player, nicknamed Der Kaiser because of his elegant style, his leadership, his first name "Franz" , and his dominance on the football pitch...

     Libero
  2.  Kingdom of England - Bobby Moore
    Bobby Moore
    Robert Frederick Chelsea "Bobby" Moore, OBE was an English footballer. He captained West Ham United for more than ten years and was captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup...

     Centre back
  3.  Italy - Franco Baresi
    Franco Baresi
    Franco Baresi is an Italian football youth team coach and former player. He played as a sweeper and spent his entire career with Serie A club AC Milan, acknowledged as one of the greatest defenders ever to play the game. Baresi was nicknamed "Piscinin", Milanese for "Little one"...

     Centre back
  4.  Chile - Elías Figueroa
    Elías Figueroa
    Elías Ricardo Figueroa Brander is a former football player from Chile. He is considered the best Chilean footballer of all time, as well as one of the greatest defenders ever to play the game....

     Stopper
  5.  Italy - Giacinto Facchetti
    Giacinto Facchetti
    Giacinto Facchetti was an Italian football player. From January 2004 until his death, he was President of Internazionale, the club for which he played for his whole career during the 1960s and 1970s, playing 634 official games and scoring 75 goals. He played for the Internazionale team remembered...

     Full back

The best defender of Europe


The FIFA
FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association , commonly known by the acronym FIFA , is the international governing body of :association football, futsal and beach football. Its headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter, who is in his fourth...

 on the occasion of preparing a historical ranking in the twentieth century in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, was included to 9 defenses in the category of European Footballer of the Century .

Nº, country, player, position
  1.  Germany - Franz Beckenbauer
    Franz Beckenbauer
    Franz Anton Beckenbauer is a German football coach, manager, and former player, nicknamed Der Kaiser because of his elegant style, his leadership, his first name "Franz" , and his dominance on the football pitch...

     Libero
  2.  Italy - Giacinto Facchetti
    Giacinto Facchetti
    Giacinto Facchetti was an Italian football player. From January 2004 until his death, he was President of Internazionale, the club for which he played for his whole career during the 1960s and 1970s, playing 634 official games and scoring 75 goals. He played for the Internazionale team remembered...

     Full back
  3.  Kingdom of England - Bobby Moore
    Bobby Moore
    Robert Frederick Chelsea "Bobby" Moore, OBE was an English footballer. He captained West Ham United for more than ten years and was captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup...

     Centre back
  4.  Italy - Franco Baresi
    Franco Baresi
    Franco Baresi is an Italian football youth team coach and former player. He played as a sweeper and spent his entire career with Serie A club AC Milan, acknowledged as one of the greatest defenders ever to play the game. Baresi was nicknamed "Piscinin", Milanese for "Little one"...

     Centre back
  5.  Germany - Paul Breitner
    Paul Breitner
    Paul Breitner is a former German football player. One of Germany's most controversial players, he was capped 48 times for his country.-Playing career:...

     Stopper
  6.  Netherlands - Ruud Krol
    Ruud Krol
    Rudolf Jozef Krol is a retired Dutch footballer who was capped 83 times for his native country. Playing the vast majority of his career with his home town club of Ajax before traveling the world as both a player and a coach...

     Wing back
  7.  Italy - Gaetano Scirea
    Gaetano Scirea
    Gaetano Scirea was an Italian football player who is considered one of the greatest defenders of all-time.Scirea is one of only five players in European football history to have won all international trophies for football clubs recognized by UEFA and FIFA...

     Sweeper
  8.  Netherlands - Ronald Koeman
    Ronald Koeman
    Ronald Koeman is a former Dutch footballer, and the current manager of Feyenoord. He is the younger brother of former Feyenoord coach Erwin Koeman and the son of former Dutch international Martin Koeman...

     Libero
  9.  Italy - Paolo Maldini
    Paolo Maldini
    Paolo Cesare Maldini is an Italian former footballer who played as a left or central defender. He spent all 25 seasons of his career at Serie A club Milan, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009, becoming a symbol and a legend of the club...

     Full back

The best defender of South American


In the ranking of best South American Footballer of the Century the FIFA
FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association , commonly known by the acronym FIFA , is the international governing body of :association football, futsal and beach football. Its headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter, who is in his fourth...

 and IFFHS  is included to 7 defenses.

Nº, country, player, position
  1.  Chile - Elías Figueroa
    Elías Figueroa
    Elías Ricardo Figueroa Brander is a former football player from Chile. He is considered the best Chilean footballer of all time, as well as one of the greatest defenders ever to play the game....

     Stopper
  2.  Argentina - Daniel Passarella
    Daniel Passarella
    Daniel Alberto Passarella is a former Argentine football centre back and former manager of the Argentine and Uruguayan national football teams. He was captain of the Argentina team that won the 1978 World Cup...

     Stopper
  3.  Brazil - Nilton dos Santos Wing back
  4.  Uruguay - José Nasazzi
    José Nasazzi
    José Nasazzi Yarza was the Uruguayan footballer who captained his country when they won the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930.-Biography:...

     Centre back
  5.  Peru - Héctor Chumpitaz
    Héctor Chumpitaz
    Héctor Eduardo Chumpitaz González is a former footballer from Peru...

     Stopper
  6.  Brazil - Carlos Alberto Torres
    Carlos Alberto Torres
    Carlos Alberto Torres is a former Brazilian footballer, one of the most highly regarded defenders of all time. He captained Brazil to victory in the 1970 World Cup and is a member of the World Team of the 20th Century, as well as the U.S...

     Wing back
  7.  Brazil - Luiz Edmundo Pereira Centre back

See also

  • Association football positions
  • Formation
    Formation (association football)
    In association football, the formation describes how the players in a team are positioned on the pitch. Different formations can be used depending on whether a team wishes to play more attacking or defensive football....

  • Catenaccio
    Catenaccio
    Catenaccio is a tactical system in football with an emphasis on defence. In Italian, catenaccio means "door-bolt", implying a highly organized and effective backline defense which is intended to prevent goals.-History:...