How To Defend In Soccer? – 7 Things You Should Know

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Knowing how to defend in soccer is essential for whoever dreams of becoming a great defender.

But, what is a defender, really? What makes a great defender and how to be good at defending?

These are probably some of the questions you have been wondering about.

Great for you, in this article, you are going to have all your questions about defensive positioning in soccer answered.

Let’s get started.

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What Is A Defender In Soccer?

A defender is a frontier in a soccer/football team. Defenders protect the goalkeeper by doing whatever it takes to prevent the opposition from scoring goals.

Most defenders have great physical abilities. And this is a necessity because they have to protect their box by going in contact with the opposition during the 90 minutes of the game – They are warriors protecting their castle.

What Is The Role Of A Defender In Soccer?

During a soccer game, the main role of a defender is to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. Defenders are willing to tackle, push, pull their opponent’s shirts, and often cause multiple fouls that can lead to yellow or red cards only to protect the goalie.

A team can play with 3 to 5 defenders, depending on the tactic. If a team concede one or several goals during a soccer game, it means the defensive line has failed to do its job.

Keep in mind that sometimes a team can concede many goals only because the coach/manager used the wrong defensive tactic – A professional game is played based on tactics and strategies directed by the coach.

There have been many great defences who collapsed during a game only because of a bad defensive tactic.

For example, Brazil vs Germany during the 2014 World Cup. The final score was 1-7.

Also read: Is pushing allowed in soccer?

How To Defend In Soccer?

Here are 4 things you need to consider when defending in a soccer game:

  • To defend in soccer, you have to Deny Space
  • Stay in front of the striker without tackling
  • Anticipation
  • Turning

In the next section, I am going to explain them one by one so you have a better understanding of each point.

1-Deny Space

Whenever you are defending against a striker, make their life difficult. Do not give them time to get their head up and find a solution.

When you are closing space, think about going there as quickly as possible. Once you get close to the opposing striker, bend your knees and get close to the ground. Defending lower to the ground is going to allow you to move faster from side to side. It will also give you more balance and strength when you are going to tackle.

How to defend in soccer - A striker facing a defender on a training pitch. The defender is bending to avoid being easily dribbled

2-Stay In Front Of The Striker Without Tackling

When you are defending, you don’t necessarily have to tackle your opponent to get the ball. You can stay in from of him and anticipate every move they try to make.

Approach the striker at an angle. This will force them to the right or left. Force them to make a mistake and when they do, tackle hard.


Instead of always trying to tackle anyhow, get to know your opponent.

Knowing your opponent will give you an idea of what they are about to do so you can anticipate.


When facing the opponent, always be ready to sprint in the opposite direction. Stay on your toes, turn quickly, spring with your opponent, and get your body in front of the ball.

How to defend in soccer - A striker getting rid of a defender. The defender was not perfectly on his toes

In the image above, this is the wrong way to defend.

Rather, put one step in front and the other behind like in the image below:

How to defend in soccer - A player facing a defender in a one-on-one. This time, the defender is perfectly on his toes and can't be easily dribbled

Defender Mistakes To Avoid

Here are the most common mistakes I see with a lot of defenders:

1-Trying To Necessarily Win The Ball

When defending, some defenders always try to win the ball.

But you don’t always need it. In fact, sometimes, all you need is to force them to go backward. Hence you have to give them no solutions.

2-Approaching Without Getting Low To The Ground

Defending without bending your knees will make it easier for the striker to get rid of you. So, defending low will make you a better defender.

How to defend in soccer - A defender not really focused on his defending. He is just running towards the striker

In the image above, the striker could easily eliminate the defender as he is not on his toes and not really focused on his defending.

3-Approaching The Striker Squarely

As I already mentioned earlier, a good defender has to approach the opponent with one step in front and the other behind.

If you are approaching him squarely, you are not going to be able to move faster.

So, rather than facing him straight on, position your body to force him to go left or right.

What Does A Good Defender Do?

A good defender always asks those two questions: Where should I be on the pitch? What should I be doing? A good defender always has to get back to his position when his team loses the ball and based on the players around him. Also, a good defender should never let the striker on his back.

When a team loses the ball, a good defender has to sprint back rather than walk.

When a defender loses the ball, he needs to either win the ball back or get back to his position right away.

If you are the closest player to the ball, press that ball and force the opponent to make a mistake.

If you are the next player and close to the ball, you have to anticipate. Ask yourself the question: “Where is the next pass going”?

Which Player/Position Does The Defender Help?

The defender can help any position during a game. Although the primary role is to help the goalie, a defender can often join the attacking and bring this big number that can sometimes pay off with a goal. This is often seen when there is a corner kick.

The majority of defenders score their goals during a corner kick. Sergio Ramos was the perfect example.

Is Defender A Good Position In Soccer?

Playing as a defender is good because a defender doesn’t necessarily need some technical abilities. Playing in defense is simple yet very difficult. Defending is a position that requires stamina, fitness, and focus. Also, Defenders are often humiliated by very skillful players.

Unlike the midfield position where you are at the centre of the game, the defender is often discrete during a game. And the media do not talk so much about defenders like the rest of the positions. Hence it’s very rare to see a defender winning the Ballon d’Or.

The most recent defender to ever win the Ballon d’Or was Canavarro.

Wrap Up

The defense position is one of the easiest positions in soccer.

Although defending requires fitness and focus, if you are someone with a great physique and no amazing skills, you can still be a great defender.

If you would like to become a defender, I really hope you have gained value from the tips mentioned in this article.

Do you have any friends that could benefit from this article? Do not hesitate to share it with them.

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