What Does A Defender Do In Soccer?

A defender is a player that protects their team by keeping the other team from scoring. In other words, a defender prevents the other team from scoring by blocking their shots, tackling them, and intercepting passes. This set of players in a team must be very strong and physical.

They play a vital role in a soccer team and their absence or ineptitude in a team would be hugely felt as suffering defeats may be the order of the day regardless of the talent a team possesses in the attacking positions. Soccer games are easily won when the defenders in a team are at the peak of their game.

The defenders can also be described as the last set of players in front of the goalkeeper that opposition players must overcome to have a decent chance of finding the back of the net.

Defenders could be as many as 5 in-game or s few as 3, depending on the formation that is deployed in a game. Defenders can be categorized as center backs, full backs, and wing-backs. Meanwhile, the act of defense can be carried out by any player in a team as we’ve seen when a side is under intense pressure from the opposing side.

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Soccer is a high-intensity game, so defenders need to be ready to tackle anyone who tries to run by them. Defenders must be disciplined, patient, and alert. 

We’ve seen a significant number of defenders that met these criteria over the years and they carved niches for themselves as the best in the game in their time. 

Some of them include Fabio Cannavaro, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, and Carles Puyol, amongst others. In recent times, we’ve seen the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Cesar Azpilicueta, Virgil van Dijk, Antonio Rudiger, Gerard Pique, Thiago Silva, Sergio Ramos, Kalidou Koulibaly, amongst others.

Before we delve deeper into the role of a defender in soccer, here’s what a defender in soccer does:


A defender must have discipline in order to guard against players that run at them with the intent to shoot at the goal. They must be alert and quick enough to react to shots taken on goal or passes that come at them. They must be disciplined enough to not allow the opponent to rile them up to make tackles or decisions that will hurt the team.


A defender must have patience. They must be willing to wait for the right opportunity to get a tackle or block a shot. They must be disciplined enough not to foul the player in possession or run too far forward from their defensive position. 

We’ve seen a good number of defenders that are lacking in this regard and are very good at giving away penalties with rash tackles to the detriment of their team.


A defender must have alertness and awareness. They must be ready to react to any passes or shots that come their way. They must also be ready to intercept any passes or shots that come at them while they’re guarding.

Defenders in a soccer team should have the highest levels of concentration during a game, especially in one where their team is dominating the majority of the proceedings on the pitch.

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What Does a Defender Do in Soccer?

A defender has many jobs to do while they’re on the field. They are expected to mark players that are in possession of the ball, intercept passes that come their way, and tackle players that are running toward them. A well-drilled team will have at least one defender who can do all of these things really well. Here’s what a defender in soccer does:

​Defends the Penalty Area

A defender is responsible for defending the penalty area. This is the area within the penalty arc (the area that starts 10 meters from the goal) that is directly in front of their own goal. The penalty area is therefore synonymous with the “D” in D. This is where a defender spends most of their time while they’re on the field.

​Disrupts the Opposition team’s attacking patterns

A defender is expected to disrupt the attacking team’s patterns by getting in the way of their players. This can be done by getting in the way of a pass, blocking a shot, or tackling a player.

​Defends the Ball

A defender is expected to defend the ball at all times. This means that when their team has the ball, they don’t let the other team have it. They tackle and intercept any passes that come their way and they block shots that come at them.

​Keep Out the Opponents’ Wide Players

A defender is responsible for keeping out the opponent’s wide players. This means that a defender will always be ready to tackle, intercept, or block any passes that come at them from a wide position. This can be done by marking.

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It is a defender’s tactic of choosing a specific player to guard or mark. There are a few different types of marks that a defender can choose from. These include man-marking, zone marking, and more as the round leather game continues to evolve.

How To Defend?

When a team has the ball, their first job is often to keep it. After all, as long as the ball is in your possession, the opposition cannot create any chances. Regardless, the possession of the ball should be with the aim of creating chances and not just knocking the ball around with no intent.

We’ve seen this at play with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Premier League. They are hardly out-possessed by any team and it is one of the reasons why they are so dominant in the Premier League. 

When a team has the ball and their defenders are doing their jobs, the team can transition into offense. 

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​Preventing Scoring

A defender has the responsibility of preventing their opponents from scoring. This means that a defender will do everything in their power to keep the ball from going into the goal.

​Blocking Shots

A defender blocks shots. This means that a defender will use their body to get in the way of any shots that come their way. However, this must be done with caution and with the hand not far from the body to avoid any handball and prevent dangerous freekicks or penalties.

​Intercepting Passes

A defender has to intercept passes. The defenders must ensure that dangerous passes from the opposition playmaker don’t get through to a striker or attacker that can put it away for a goal. Anticipating and blocking through passes is a key component of a defender’s skillset.

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As pointed out earlier, a defender is a player that protects their team by keeping the other team from scoring. This means that a defender prevents the opposition team from scoring by blocking their shots, tackling them, and intercepting passes. 

It is one of the vital positions in soccer and in a team.

These players are required to be very disciplined, aware, composed, and always ready to carry the team on their backs as the difference between a team gaining maximum points and losing all could be them in any game.