Learn How To Defend In Soccer & Never Get Beat Again!

how to defend in soccer

So you keep getting beat 1 on 1 and want to know how to defend in soccer the right way?

You've come to the right place. I've been beaten and embarrassed more than a few times to know exactly how to defend an attacker 1v1.

You need to think about your indvidual defending when an opponent is dribbling or running at your but also how to defend as a unit.

This unit could be your midfield partner in front of you, your defensive partner next to you or your goalkeeper behind you.

Defending is one part on the ball when your trying to stop a player and another part where you're standing so that opponent can't be in an advantageous position if and when they get the ball. You'll learn about both below.

Body positioning, timing, using your hands and many more tips below to make you rock solid in the back. 

How To Defend In Soccer Video Explanation

Top 5 Tips On How To Defend In Soccer

1. Turn Your Hips

  • As soon as the attacker starts to pick up speed you want to have your hips facing the same way they are or you'll never catch them.
  • Shuffling your feet will only get you so far in five yard spaces, open field running you literally need to be facing your own goal while turning your neck and looking at the ball.
  • Get to foot over foot running as quickly as you can to get to top speed to catch the attacker.

2. Feel Them With Your Hands

  • As soon as an attacker gets within a yard or two of you then you need to try and use your hands to slow them down and get into a stronger position.
  • If you can grab their should or arm or place your hand on their chest it will go along way to getting an advantage in terms of body positioning and putting in a tackle.
  • Name of the game here is to be discreet and not foul by pulling a jersey or shorts but to slow down their momentum and not allow them to maneuver away from you.
  • Get your hands out from beside your and get them out in front of you as the attacker closes space on you.

3. Active Feet

  • As you get closer to the opponent to almost a stand still remember to stay on your toes and keep your feet moving to effectively react to the next action.
  • Don't be caught flat footed, it will lead to a slower reaction time and that may be all the attacker needs to get by you.

4. Stay Low

  • Staying in a low athletic stance will give you the best chance to react to the next defensive movement you may need.
  • A low body position will also allow you to be best prepared for a duel with the attacker should you need to shield the ball or go shoulder to shoulder with them to win the ball.
  • Staying low is crucial for good balance and keeping a strong lower body for any contact that may come your way.

5. Wait, Wait, Now!

  • Don't over commit and compromise your defensive position just because you think you may be able to win the ball.
  • Only tackle with your front foot when the moment is right, which usually is when you can lunge in without giving up the space behind you.
  • Name of the game here is paitience, slowly close the space and shepherd them into a smaller space before you try and win the ball. A couple fakes with yoru body or feet may bait the attacker into exposing the ball.

How To Defend In Soccer 1v1 Like A Pro

Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Learning How To Defend In Soccer

1. Back Foot Tackling

  • Avoid trying to be too clever by tackling with your back foot (aka the further foot from the ball).
  • You're better off just recovering behind the ball than trying this. It will get you in a worse position and your chances of winning the ball are next to zero.
  • Front foot tackle or get behind the ball, no river dancing when defending please.

2. Jumping In

  • As wild as it may sound, just waiting it out and waiting fo the opponent to give you the ball will work wondrs for you.
  • Jumping in will compromise your position and lead to you having to get behind the ball and delay anyways so you might as well start off with that menality.
  • Stop thinking you're going to win every single ball and be paitent, close the space on teh defender, shepherd them into a small space then win the ball.

3. Square Body Shape

  • It's not the 1980's and it's not basketball. Stay side on and avoid being flat the the player with the ball.
  • Turn your hips to the point where you will almost be facing the other way so when they take that forward sprint you're in a great position to keep up with them.
  • Stay in a low athletic stance, side on and get ready to face your own goal.

4. Leaving Your Feet

  • This should only happen in emergency situations and almost never.
  • Saving a goal, scoping up a ball from going out of bounds and a red card on purpose to stop a breakaway outside the box should be when you leave your feet.
  • Stop watching Maldini highlights and remain discipline, track runners, stand players up and stay on your feet as much as possible.

5. High Risk Steps

  • If you're playing a high line and you have the choice to track a player in behind your or try some hero tackle on the guy with the ball, please just track.
  • There is so little to gain by winning the ball in your half and so much to lose by getting this wrong.
  • When you're playing and not sure which to do in that split second, always drop and play it safe, 9 times of 10 you'll be happy you did.

The Basics On How To Defend In Soccer

Top 5 Things To Remember As A Back Line

1. Pass Players On

  • Learn to communicate to your teammates when a player has left your channel and is starting to inch into theirs.
  • Clever attackers will run in behind you and your fellow defenders so be sure to communicate when one looks like he's about to make a dangerous run.
  • A simple "behind you" or "drop" to a teammate can make all the difference.

2. Scan, Scan, Scan!!

  • Anytime the opponent doesn't have full possession of the ball you should be constantly scanning around you to see if there are any potential threats.
  • This should be happening every few seconds as the picture can change in a blink of an eye.

  • Great defenders are always surveying the field and updating their teammates of any changes.

3. Communicate At All Times

  • Things change quickly and being able to tell the person next to you can make all the difference.
  • Telling them a player is running in behind them or that you're challenging for the ball and they should drop are key details your defensive line need to know about.
  • This isn't a one and done process, the picture and moment is constently changing so update your teammates every few seconds to what you're thinking and doing especially when they can't see you.

4. Trust Them To Do Their Job

  • Don't try and constalty cover up for teammates by thinking you need to do their jobs as well. Have the trust in them to do their jobs jus as you would want them to trust you to do yours.
  • Do your job first then help if they have failed to do theirs, not before.
  • Slowly over time you will start to build chemistry with the different partners you have on the field and as a unit you will start to get stronger and more familiar with one another

5. The Best Defence Is A Strong Attack

  • Defenders are asked to make decisions on the ball more than any other player so your ability to keep possession is vital.
  • Avoid making dangerous or high risk passes that have a low completion probablity. What you'll find is these chances will create more work for you defensively.
  • Play simple and early so your defensive positioning isn't compromised should your team lose the ball.
  • Square balls and balls into teammates with opponents on their back are your biggest enemy.

Top 5 Things To Avoid As A Back Line

1. Hero Defending

  • You can't tackle every player, every time and think this is the best way to defend.
  • Do you job, in your zone and let your teammates do theirs. Jumping out of position 20 yards to make some glorious tackle will only lead to trouble.
  • The best defenders in the world are discipline and calculated with the chances they take to destroy a play.

2. Too Casual

  • Be a defender and destroy the play.
  • Don't do everything right defensively then try and be too cute with a half clearance or a dribble.
  • Win the ball or secure the ball play the safe option in the back.
  • Be safe and effective, you're not Sergio Ramos.

3. Neat and Tidy

  • Be a defender first and cut out the cute stuff.
  • Win the tackle, win the ball, make the simple pass and don't over complicate your life by over dribbling or playing impossible split passes. Typically these decisons come right back down your throat.
  • Have the discipline to play safe and simple and watch how your game will be appreciated by scouts, coaches and your teammates.

4. Being Too Flat

  • One ball can't beat all of you. Meaning there needs to be some depth to the line if someone is pressuring the ball.
  • If you can't affect the ball your job is to provide depth then.
  • Not only flat as an entire line but also make sure your own body shape isn't flat and square to the ball or you won't be in a good position to sprint back and recover.

5. Too Stretched

Remaining compact is one of the most important defensive principles and you're going to want to stay that way if keeping a clean sheet is in your near future.

Always stay compact with your defensive line closest to the ball side of the field.

Limit the gaps between each of you in the back line and force teams to beat you out wide and never centrally.

Want To Know Exactly How To Defend In Soccer?
Here's How!

1. Master The Fundamentals

Every sport and every position has basic fundamentals that every player needs. For you it's your low stance, quick turning of the hips, front foot tackling and ball winning.

Before you go any deeper into your game master these first as they are the foundation for any great defender.

2. Best Player Before & After Training

Next time you are training with your team get the best player or couple players who are the best dribblers as well as some fast players and take them on 1v1. 

Lay down a two cones 15 yards apart and see how may times out of 10 they get past the cone and how many times you stop them. Simple and effective way to get your reps up on how to defend in soccer.

3. Watch The Pro's

Next time you watch a pro game on TV or in person really look at your position and see how players from both teams defend 1v1 and as group. Look specifially at the technical part of their 1v1 defending.

You will probably see quick active feet with small steps, their hips turned facing their own goals, them using their hands and front foot tackles at the right time.

How Aggressive Should I Be When Defending?

how to defend in soccer

Use this as a guide, the closer you get to your own goal, the less aggressive you need to be.

Don't confuse that with being passive closer to your own goal, but just a little increase in patience as you get closer and closer to your own net.

When a player has full possession of the ball and is running at you with it you need to be careful about jumping in, in fact you need to just track him at that point. 

If he's standing still, side on or not in full possession (still controlling the ball) that is the time to ultra aggressive to win the ball and get strong body contact on your opponent.

If you want a step by step process on how to defend in soccer feel free to check out this explanation with pictures.