Defense (soccer) - Defensa (fútbol)

The basic positions in defense are four: back, winger, center and libero

In soccer , the defender , defender , marker or back row [ 1 ] is a player on the field whose main role is to prevent opponents from approaching the goal and scoring goals.


There are several types of defensive devices, since the 1950s and before, two devices were used before playing mainly for you to play concentrated; the 2-3-5 inverted pyramid and the German defense MW . In the inverted pyramid, the wingers went up to the midfield, confusing themselves with the midfielders, but fulfilling defensive tasks. In the device of the German defense it was sought to pressure the rival in the midfield, therefore there was a libero that At the end of the 1950s, defensive lines with four players appeared. In the 1960s, the lanes who played in the 4-2-4 system shined. At the 1966 Soccer World Cupthe wingless 4-4-2 formation emerged that played with two centrals and two full-backs contained by the midfield line that played defensively. Already in the 80s the formations with 3 defenders reappeared, especially in the 1986 Soccer World Cup . In the 1990s, Arrigo Sacchi's zonal defensive systems came to light and today in Spain he has improvised with three line defenders that press together in midfield. However, a lot is currently being played with four defenses in the 4-4-2 system.


  • Three defenders ( Bilardo's 3-5-2 scheme ): one of them is a sweeping libero or a center-back waiting behind and is accompanied by two defensive midfielders who come out to cut in front and to the sides. It is a very common system in Argentine, Uruguayan and Venezuelan soccer.
  • Three defenders (3-2-3-2 or 3-2-2-3 MW scheme): one of them is a libero who cuts short the attacks to midfield and two centrals on each side who wait behind. This way of playing is a defensive device called the German defense .
  • Three defenders (3-4-3): you simply play with three centrals in a line. This system is very common in Dutch football.
  • Four defenders (4-4-2 wingless scheme): two of them are central and two are lateral. It is a very common form in English football.
  • Four defenders (4-2-2-2 or 4-4-2 scheme with a diamond in the middle): these are two centrals accompanied by two wingers. This system is very common in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
  • Four defenses, two of them advanced (example 2-3-5 inverted pyramid) [ 2 ] this is a defensive device in disuse, but that in the facet of the attack and the pressure on the opponent can still be given. It consists of two central defenders waiting behind and two midfield or midfield defenders who come forward and make a line of three accompanying the starting wheel. The idea is that these defenders go out to cut the lateral raises of the forwards and pointers. Guardiola has rescued this system in his time at Bayern.
  • Five defenders (the 5-3-2 or 5-2-1-2 catenaccio schemes ): variant used mainly in some teams in Europe, where one defender is the libero and a line of four defenders plays in front of him - two midfielders defensive and two full-backs or two center-backs and two lanes.

Defense categories

Central defense

Also called central defender , or simply central (not to be confused with the term central marker). Usually numbered 4 and 5 (in Europe) or 2 and 6 (in Argentina); 3 and 4 (in Brazil); 2 and 3(in Uruguay), depending on each country, the central markers constitute the base of the defense. The central defender plays in a more contained way than the defensive midfielder, preferably in a line of 4, waiting in order for the rival attack and guarding the area with a zonal defense - this player rather waits for the rival in the last line. The central defender does not necessarily take care of the wings, that is the task of the defensive midfielder or the leading marker. Its main orientation is not to go out to mark players, but to protect the areas in zonal defense. [ 3 ]

As essential characteristics, the central defender must be neat in the removal of balls, orderly in the game, have very good air and, above all, run the court well. Many times it is played with a central defender who is located in the center-right and is complemented by a defensive midfielder. Here the center-back has a purely defensive function, of exchange and neatness, he must order the line of play and must know how to occupy the spaces left on the court.

Communication becomes essential between the central defenders because one of the two must go out to assist —generally marking the possible attacking receiver of the ball— while the other has to stay to cover the last zone to avoid total lack of protection in the event of a possible change of front. of the play. Achieving this degree of synchronization in the duo depends more on dialogue than on repetition of movements. "[4]

Classic examples can be found Franco Baresi who in Milan played not only central and line ordered four, but used the trap of the offside to expose the tactical deployment of the opponent. Another example would be Elías Figueroa , the best central defender in the history of South America, along with Daniel Passarella .

Bobby Moore , who is said to have run the court so well that the ball always came to him. Other large plants were Carles Puyol , Jaap Stam , Hector Chumpitaz , Laurent Blanc (fourth best French player of the century as daily L'Equipe being one of the scorers in history defenses), [ 5 ] Carlos Gamarra . Currently, players such as Sergio Ramos , Matthijs De Ligt , Virgil van Dijk , Gerard Pique , Aymeric Laporte , Çağlar Söyüncü , Clément Lenglet stand out., Dayot Upamecano , Raphael Varane , Yeray Álvarez , Kalidou Koulibaly , Eric Bailly , Daniele Rugani , Milan Škriniar , Diego Godín , Thiago Silva , Jerome Boateng .

Court defender

Mostly known as a cut marker also called a stóper [ 6 ] —derived from the English stopper(hostel)-. Play preferably in a line of 3 or 5, ahead of a libero, sometimes they can be seen in the line of 4 complementing the central marker located in the center-left of the defense or at the tip of a defensive diamond commissioned in first instance of disrupting the opponent's attack. In that alignment possibility, they stand out in the 4-4-2 formation when playing without a nominal defensive midfielder. They are also important in South American football when it is privileged to suppress the containment midfielder and to play with exit midfielders, then the stupid becomes indispensable ahead of the defense in a defensive diamond. They traditionally use the numbers 3 or 2 .

If in comparison, the central defender plays content waiting in line for the rival attack, the stopper, for his part, is the one who gets ahead of the last man and presses the opponent who comes to attack. The estoper takes care of the divided balls, if possible, anticipates the danger outside the area. [ 7 ] A stóper can be both, the specific man who makes the personal marking to a rival or that player that in the global sense, takes charge of disrupting the opponent's attack in advance of the plays.

The beginnings of the estoper occur before changes in regulation of the offside in 1925. Under the old rule, should have two men (counting the goalkeeper), before enabling between the front and arch rival. At that time it was played with two defenses in the so-called pyramid system (2-3-5). The defensive functions were then distributed between a last defender who always remained behind (who was also called cuevero) and another second defender (the estoper) who was in charge of going out and in to intelligently manipulate the offside trap.

This type of defender must necessarily be fast to cover many areas of the field —both to the side and towards the center—, since this type of defender must supply the work of the wingers, especially if it is played in a 3-line line. The most imperative of a stopper is the ability to anticipate, therefore a great exponent of this way of playing must be an eminently cerebral defender. In a complementary way, these are players with good technical ability, they do not necessarily have to be as tall and corpulent as the central defender, but they must be skilled with their feet. [ 8 ]The stopper, in addition to defending —which is obviously his main role— has a starting or starting function in the construction of the game. This task is very valuable especially if after the anticipation at the mark, the stopper surprises the rival team badly standing against. An example of this was Elías Figueroa , recognized by the IFFHS as the best South American defender of the 20th century, who was nicknamed "Mister Luxury" for his neatness in the brand and his ability to go out playing with complete calm and control of the ball.

Other classic examples are striker Daniel Passarella , Marcel Desailly who was nicknamed the quiet strength, [ 9 ] Fernando Hierro , Ronald Koeman , Héctor Chumpitaz and Domingos da Guia of who wrote "is perfectly cleansed defense ... disarms the opponent without violence and then he has the luxury of making an attack pass ... come see Domingos ". [ 10 ] At present, Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Cannavaro have stood out .

Free defender down the middle

Mostly recognized as Liberos . It consists of a defender who has the peculiarity of playing "free" from brand obligations or an area to be covered. The word "libero" means "free" in Italian and was used for the first time by the Italian journalist Gianni Brera. Clearly, this name is due to the fact that the Liberos are "brand-free", that is, without an assigned brand, being the last man to come out in front of anyone who attacks. In a starting eleven the libero is usually aligned with a defense of 3 or 5 men and according to his characteristics or style of play he was accompanied by stoppers or centrals. Generally he is the last man on the defensive line but it is also possible that he plays in front of it and be free to attack on certain occasions, this also varies the style of play, since if he plays behind the defensive line he acts as a libero sweeper , broom , [ 11 ] sweeper or cave , [ 8 ]Well, it passes "sweeping" behind the defense line, but if it goes out to cut in front of the defensive line, then it would fulfill the functions of a German libero that is like a very loose stopper in the middle as a shuttlecock. Classic examples of libero: Franz Beckenbauer the creator of the position in Germany, Gaetano Scirea in Juventus and the Italian national team, Osvaldo Barsottini , Armando Picchi in Inter or Matthias Sammer in Borussia Dortmund and Hans-Jürgen Dörner for East Germany. Current examples are Javier Mascherano , Bruno Valdez , Gary Medel , Mario Yepes, Nicolás Otamendi , Diego Godín , however this position is very much in disuse.


Also known as tip marker , they generally use the number 4 when it is the right back and the number 3 when it is the left back. With the appearance of the 4-4-2 wingless scheme, they fulfilled purely defensive functions, but with the football revolution with split functions they began to fulfill a mixed role of defense and projection, however they have always played in a more contained way, favoring the former. to the second. They also appear in formations 5-3-2 and 5-4-1 of the catenacciowhere he has the sides at his disposal, something that does not happen with the 4-4-2 formation where there are flyers on the wings. On the sides of the defense they are in charge of blocking the rises of the pointers and forwards, of helping in the exchange and relays of the markings and ensuring the aerial game in the central area if they have to rotate with the central defenders. In their constructive aspect, the laterals fulfill functions of distance distributor, they go up with the ball on the wings and usually send centers to the rival area so that the striker scores a goal, therefore they must have driving and center. The main difference with the lanes is that the full-backs play more content, typical of Italian and English defensive tactical football, they also tend to be stronger at the mark and higher for the header.Carlos Alberto , Roberto Carlos , José Antonio Camacho , Quique Sánchez Flores , Paolo Maldini , Francisco Arce , Hugo Ibarra Javier Zanetti and lately Filipe Luís , Marcelo Vieira , Trent Alexander-Arnold , David Alaba , Łukasz Piszczek , Philipp Lahm , Álvaro Odriozola , Yuto Nagatomo , Jetro Willems , Layvin Kurzawa , Jordi Alba , Dani Alves ,Fernando Navarro , Daniel Carvajal , Alphonso Davies or Andrew Robertson .

Free defender on the wing (back)

The lane [ 12 ] and frequently confused with the interiors (flyers by the bands). They are essential to triangulate in attack within the 4-2-2-2 scheme and are important in driving in a 4-2-4 scheme. These fenders are a modern (although little used) variation of the wings. They have more tendencies to participate in the attack, with a looser game and sometimes with creative responsibilities on the flanks of the three-quarters of the court. [ 13 ]It differs from the steering wheels by the bands (inside), not only for a positional issue but also for a question of game profiles and deployment possibilities. In the evolution of football to what it is today, the lanes have a combination of wings and inside. Finally, it differs from midfield defenders and midfield defenders in terms of these parts of the flanks, but they do not look for the bands to attack, but they fly up the center of the field.

In relation to the playing profiles, the lanes must have great physical capacity since they travel the band many times to attack, cut balls in the midfield uploaded by bands, and again return to defensive positions when the opposing team mounts an attack. The lanes tend to go up more frequently on the wings and with more offensive danger than the wingers - who are more contained - therefore it is required that they have excellent ball handling. The wingers must be good at shooting on goal and of course they must cross from the sides to the rival area. There are full-backs like Joao Pereira , Stephan Lichtsteiner , Mauricio Isla and Dani Alves , who know how to finish the play inside the area.

The first lanes in history were Djalma Santos , Giacinto Facchetti , Nilton Santos and Luis Eyzaguirre , later Ruud Krol , Luis Enrique Martínez , Júnior , Cafú stood out and currently Filipe Luís , Daniel Carvajal , David Alaba , Dani Alves , Jordi Alba and Marcelo stand out. Vieira . All of them are examples of lanes, and many can also play as inside.

Midfield defender (deprecated)

Also known as midfielders , [ 14 ] left and right half or simply half back ; It was a disused soccer position typical of the inverted pyramidal formation in the 30s that later persisted in the soccer features of the Brazilian soccer flyers in the 1970s. This soccer position has defenders who played ahead in the middle zone field and covered the rises by the bands from center of the field. The main distinction that differentiates him from the laneis that both the midfield defender and the midfielder did not make the races on the wings in the direction of attack, but rather sought to climb from the side to the center of the field, distributing football as if it were a starting midfielder or an enabler. The game systems they used were 2-3-5 for midfield defenders and 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 with rhombus for wingers.

From the midfield defender to the winger there were game projections, even using the same numbers 6 , 4 and 5 . On the other hand, the half backs played in the containment zone in a line of three on both sides of the containment midfielder and the midfielders played in the four-defense line, but both covered the same play zones. Unlike the containment midfielder, the midfield defender was not responsible for cutting the game in the center of the court, but had to mark the rise of the forwards and pointersfrom advanced positions, pressing the exit and pushing towards the attack, like a flying side. Finally, it should be noted that the qualities of the half back and the flying side were the same. These footballers had to be strong in the strike and anticipation of the ball, quick to reach the wingers and pointers, they had to have a good touch of the ball to get into the middle and distribute football. Of the best midfield defenders in history, José Leandro Andrade [ 15 ] stands out in the 30s and Duncan Edwards, already one of the last full-back in the early 60s. In Brazilian football with good ball touch, Marinho Chagas and Everaldo stand out in the 70s.

Defensive tactics

Bolton Wanderers defenders (in white) positioned according to the circumstances to hinder the opposing team's attack.

There are three types of defensive tactics: [ 16 ]

1) Individual defense where responsibility is established with respect to the direct relation between the defending player / attacking player, and the rational organization of the space is not taken into account. It is an aggressive defense, which allows the quick recovery of the ball. It requires a great physical condition, causes many spaces, giving ease to the rival team and with it more fouls are committed.

2) Zonal defense consists of assigning a certain space to each player whose boundaries will vary depending on the movement of the ball. Responsibility ceases to be individual to be spatial. It is useful to protect the goal as much as possible, it reduces the number of fouls to a minimum as well as physical wear and tear and allows you to go on a counterattack very easily. It can be broken with quick attacks; It is not recommended to use it against the result and it is easily attainable with the use of 2 for 1 in zone by the attacking team.

3) Mixed defense would consist of combining individual marking with zonal marking. Normally the individual mark will be made on the most valid player of the opposing team, and the rest of the team will defend zonally.

Committed in defense

  • Marking: The defender covers the opposing player to prevent him from acting freely during a play.
  • Withdrawal: It is carried out when the own team loses the ball during an offensive action, the defenders must return to their natural positions to prevent the opposing team from benefiting from the displacement of the defenders.
  • Coverage: When a defender finds himself in a tight spot, a teammate must offer to receive the pass and get the defender in danger out of trouble.
  • Swap: When a player is overflowed, he must fill the position of the partner who came to his aid.
  • Splitting: These are a series of actions that allow, above all, not to lose the rational occupation of the field of play, covering or occupying the back of the offensive partner when he loses the ball, returning this to take the place of the partner who helped him.
  • Permanent aids: They are a series of favorable solutions that are presented to the player who owns the ball.
  • Vigilance: It is when the defenders must cover some area of ​​the field that, although not occupied by any opponent, is important to prevent a possible play from the rival.
  • Timing: It is an action done with cunning to gain an advantage in the game (tactically speaking).
  • Tackle: Direct action taken by a player to snatch the ball from an opponent.
  • Charge: The defender pushes the opposing player shoulder to shoulder (legally) to snatch the ball from him.
  • Anticipation: It is when a defender reads the opponent's intention and anticipates this by disrupting the action he intended to perform.
  • Interception: It is when the defender cuts or deflects a pass from the rival, thus ending the play.
  • Pressure: Once the ball is lost, the defenders must pressure the opponent to annoy him and hinder his movements. [ 17 ]

Goalscorer defenses

Although the defense is not required to be responsible for scoring goals, it is important to note that some of the best defenders in history had the ability to contribute in attack. Among the scoring defenses, not only the lanes that go up and down but also central and lateral projection stand out. According to the IFFHS ranking of the FIFA, the scorer defense stand out Ronald Koeman , Daniel Passarella , Fernando Hierro , who was characterized by the heading and the free kick in the same way, Roberto Carlos , Paul Breitner , Héctor Chumpitaz and Laurent Blanc. Of the most famous goals made by a defender , Elías Figueroa's Illuminated Goal in 1975 stands out.

Featured defenses

The best of the world

In the FIFA ranking prepared at the end of 2004 , 5 defenders were included among the 50 Best Players of the 20th Century . [ 18 ]

No., Country, Player, (No. position).

  1. Flag of germany Franz Beckenbauer - (3)
  2. Argentina's flag Daniel Passarella (6)
  3. England flag Bobby Moore - (2)
  4. Italian flag Franco Baresi - (3)
  5. Chile's flag Elías Figueroa - (2)

The best in Europe

The FIFA on the occasion of preparing the historic ranking of the twentieth century in Europe included to 9 Defenses in the heading Best European Player of the Century [ 19 ]

No., Country, Player, (No. position)

  1. Italian flag Franz Beckenbauer (3)
  2. Flag of germany Giacinto Facchetti (3)
  3. England flag Bobby Moore (6)
  4. Italian flag Franco Baresi (2)
  5. Italian flag Gaetano Scirea (2) or (6).
  6. Italian flag Paolo Maldini (3) or (6).
  7. Netherlands flag Ruud Krol (2) o (3)
  8. Flag of germany Paul Breitner (3)
  9. Netherlands flag Ronald Koeman (2)

The best of South America

In the ranking of the best South American player of the century [ 20 ] the FIFA included 8 fenders:

No., Country, Player, (No. position)

  1. Argentina's flag Daniel Passarella (6)
  2. Chile's flag Elijah Figueroa (2)
  3. Brazil's flag Nilton Santos (3)
  4. Uruguay flag José Nasazzi (2)
  5. Peru flag Hector Chumpitaz (2)
  6. Brazil's flag Luiz Edmundo Pereira (2)
  7. Brazil's flag Carlos Alberto Torres (4)
  8. Brazil's flag Domingos Antônio da Guia (2)

Goalscorer defenses

The IFFHS has compiled a ranking of the Top 80 First Division scorers of all time playing as a defender . [ 21 ]

N.º Name Nationality Period PJ Goals Average
1 Ronald Koeman Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands 1980-1997 533 193 0.36
2 Daniel Passarella Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina 1974-1989 451 134 0.30
3 Fernando iron Flag of Spain.svg Spain 1987-2005 541 110 0.20
4 Edgardo bauza Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina 1977-1992 499 108 0.22
5 Paul Breitner Flag of Germany.svg Germany 1970-1983 369 103 0.28
6 Laurent Blanc Flag of France.svg France 1987-2003 500 95 0.19
7 Jose Rafael Albrecht Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina 1960-1977 506 95 0.18
8 Gary Lloyd Flag of Wales (1959).svg Gales 1992-2009 515 90 0.17
9 Franck Sauzee Flag of France.svg France 1983-2002 483 89 0.18
10 Juan Domingo Rocchia Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina 1970-1983 396 86 0.22

Other great defenses integrate the list in intermediate locations, among them they stand out; Sergio Ramos (126), Enzo Trossero (76), Roberto Carlos (68), Franz Beckenbauer (67), Héctor Chumpitaz (65), Andreas Brehme (62) and Giacinto Facchetti (59).

See also


  1. Royal Spanish Academy and Association of Academies of the Spanish Language (2014). «Defender» . Dictionary of the Spanish language (23rd edition). Madrid: Espasa. ISBN 978-84-670-4189-7 . Retrieved March 1, 2015 .
  3. ^ " (defensive football training)" .
  8. ^ A b "Archived copy" . Archived from the original on July 14, 2014 . Retrieved May 16, 2013 .
  16. (ed.). "Defense in the zone . "
  17. (ed.). "Defensive principles" .
  18. Annex: Best player of the 20th century according to the IFFHS
  19. Europe - Player of the Century
  20. The Best South American Player of the Century
  21. ^ IFFHS (ed.). "Top 80 First Division Scorers of All Time Playing Defender" . Retrieved February 4, 2011 .