30 Roles Of Defending Players

What must football players do when they are defending? How do they know what actions and roles should they undertake depending on where the ball is on the field? Should all defenders do the same tasks? We will explain the 30 functions and responsibilities that the players must learn to do when defending.

In football, the team that has the ball is said to be attacking; however the team that does not, is defending. You can go deeper on the offensive and defensive phases in this article. In a previous article we explained what players do when they are attacking. In this one, we'll explain the tasks that our players should do on defense. For this we will divide defense time in the following sub steps: a) pressure: we just lost the ball, b) retreat: we will go back to our area where we will defend the counter attack c) recovering the ball.


Defensive actions in the pressure phase:

Our team is deployed looking for open spaces and the other team is compact marking players and protecting spaces, but they've just recovered the ball and due to the position of its players it is very difficult to keep possession. We have to work with a view to two objectives: get the ball and avoid the counter attack.

Players should learn and be able to:

  1. Put pressure on the dribbler. The closest defender must go to try to retrieve the ball and/or for the player to play it with ease in driving or passing.
  2. Close the passing lanes. Players closest to the ball must be placed between it and the attacking players supporting him to avoid the pass or retrieve the ball.
  3. Monitor free spaces where the ball might circulate with somebody driving it or through medium and long passes.
  4. Monitor and mark the attacking players being deployed to counterattack.
  5. Arrange the defensive structure as soon as possible.
  6. Be prepared to launch a counterattack if the ball is recovered.

Defensive actions in retreat phase:

We continue to "retreat" from the attack zone recovering defensive balance and covering the free spaces that could be used by the players. We must place the defense and prepare to prevent the attack.

Players should learn and be able to:

  1. Move to defensive positions occupying lanes and areas where progress could be made with the ball.
  2. Cover and assume the roles and responsibilities of the players who have beaten in the previous phase, for example: the player who stayed pressuring the ball holder.
  3. Swap roles and functions with active players. The overtaken players must move to the defensive zone and occupy new defensive positions, must take the responsibilities of other defenses that are not in "their sites" because are covering defensively and working in "other positions".
  4. Actively assist players who are near the ball, more attentively and energetically to the one that is "attacking" that has the ball at that moment to avoid being overwhelmed.
  5. Keep a tight mark on players that are near the ball.
  6. Monitor the medium and long pass lines to intercept the ball.
  7. Monitor players distant from the ball in case a pass to them occurs, in order to anticipate.
  8. Be able to deploy to start counter attacking once you have recovered the ball

Defensive actions in pressure phase:

We are already located in the area where we agree we will defend in order to not let the ball pass and retrieve the ball. This area could be close to my own goal, behind the midfield line or in the opposite side from the front of the midfield line. Players are arranged in certain positions, the structure is consolidated and we're all ready.

  Players should learn and be able to:

  1. Mark players near the ball that could receive it.
  2. Close the passing lanes that could "break" the defensive lines (Through ball)
  3. Block shots on goal.
  4. Assist the teammate who is defending against the player with the ball to prevent him from being passed on.
  5. Block centers to the goal area.
  6. Intercept passes.
  7. To monitor players in dangerous attacking positions although distant to the ball holder.
  8. Reset the defensive balance when players are overtaken.
  9. Cover the positions of teammates that were overtaken or went out to help other teammates.
  10. Swap roles and responsibilities with partners who left because they came out to help other defenders.
  11. Reduce attacking spaces by concentrating players near the player with the ball.
  12. Anticipate attackers' responses to attempt recovering the ball.
  13. Clear the ball from areas near the goal.
  14. Tackle the ball holder to recover the ball or prevent his advance to more effective shooting areas.
  15. Locate oneself in counterattacking positions if the ball is recovered.
  16. Understand how to deploy to support the player with the ball once recovered.

As seen in these 30 sections, players have different responsibilities and roles when it's time to defend depending on the stage they are in, which is basically determined by the position of the ball in the field. It is very important for players to know the missions and recognize as soon as possible which functions they must perform individually to help the team.

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