The job of a football defender is to play in front of the goalkeeper and put a stop to attacks from the other team. If the defender cannot stop the attack of the opposing, then his next responsibility is to at least slow down the attack, giving his teammates time to compose, come back and assist.
Over the years defenders have become more and more important to the game. Football teams usually fielded seven attackers, with only three outfield players stationed in defense and midfield.
A football defender usually has a specialist position, although this position often able to play in any position along the back line. Primarily, two types of defenders exist: central defenders and fullbacks.
In some instances a team picks four defenders; a left-sided fullback, two central defenders, and a right-sided fullback. Central defenders concentrate on defending the area directly in front of the goal, whereas the fullbacks deal with attacks down their respective flanks. Some teams may play tactical variations on this theme, usually an extra central defender as part of a back five.
Defenders either play a man-to-man marking game or a zonal defense. The former technique sees him follow a particular player closely, tracking him during the game. The latter technique sees defenders pick up players when they come into the particular area, or zone, they are patrolling.
Both tactics have pros and cons. Man-to-man marking keeps things simple, but depending on the opposition, mismatches of speed, strength, height, talent, or experience can occur, putting the defender at a disadvantage. Zonal marking takes such pressure off individuals, but requires greater concentration and communication; if two players go for the same opponent, another may be left free to score.
Central defenders position
The central defender’s primarily role is to patrol the central areas of the defensive third, attempting to stop opposition attacks. He can do this by tackling opposition players, harrying them into making mistakes, winning headers, or intercepting passes.
The central defender usually plays as one half of a two-player central defen- sive partnership. Both central defenders have essentially the same remit, although the two players usually have slightly different skills that comple- ment each other.
Often one of the two central defenders is dominant in terms of height and strength and the other is a more assured ballplayer and is perhaps a quicker and more mobile runner. This combination theoretically covers all bases: The partnership will not be out-muscled by a tall, strong, bustling striker, and neither will it be caught flat-footed by a quicker and more wily opponent.
A defensive line usually features two fullbacks, one on either side of the central defensive partnership. The one on the left is known as the left back and the one patrolling the right wing is known as the right back.
Their roles are to defend the respective flanks of the field from attack. As a broad and basic rule, fullbacks don’t move from their flanks, though in practice they often cut inside to assist their central defenders should they be pulled out of position.
Fullbacks are also increasingly asked to assist in attacks, working in tandem with the midfielder or winger ahead of them on the field. They push up-field, offering support to their team mates and making runs ahead of them down the wing, giving the attackers another passing option. This is known as overlapping.
Fullbacks who overlap many times during a game may have been given a more attacking remit, and are often referred to as wing backs. When fullbacks or wing backs are given scope to roam up field, teams often compensate by adding a third central defender, either as part of a back five or 3-5-2 formation (two of the five midfielders, the wing backs, drop back into defense when required).
A sweeper is effectively a third central defender, though one with a free- floating remit. The two other central defenders may cover either particular opponents or areas of the field, but the sweeper is allowed to roam as he sees fit, sweeping up any loose balls and dealing with any difficult situations. The player plays behind the central defensive pairing, where he can see all the play unfold in front of him.
Very good sweepers possess such good passing skills, dribbling ability, and tactical awareness that they are the star players in their team, dictating the way a team plays. They end up taking the role of play-maker, historically a midfield or attacking role. So difficult is this combination, however, that it does not happen very often.