Soccer Strategy - Tactics During A Game Situation - General Defensive Tactics - First, Second and Third Defender

First, Second and Third Defender

The first defender has the main responsibility for what the opponent in possession does, seeking to obstruct dangerous passes. The initial few seconds after a team has lost the ball are important, as the newly-defending team in these seconds will be poorly organised defensively. Wise first defending will contribute to the defending team managing to organise before the opponents attack.

The first defender should usually be the player closest to the opponent holding possession, but needs to be at the defending side of him in order to do an effective job. He or she should keep a distance of about 2 metres, although the ideal distance will vary with each situation. The point is to pressure the opponent as much as possible without giving him a large possibility of a dribble. As a dribble isn't as dangerous when the defending team is well organised, the distance may be shorter in these cases. Analogously, the distance should be increased if the defence is poorly organised.

In certain cases, the first defender should attempt a tackle. Often, however, this will increase the probability of being dribbled and passed.

The direction in which to move towards the opponent with possession of the ball may be the shortest direction. However, it may be of value to curve the defensive run, in order to channel (also called "show") the opponent in a certain direction. If the defensive team is well organised, he should be channelled ("shown") towards the centre of the pitch. In the case of temporarily poor defensive organisation, however, he should be channelled towards the line.

The second defender is for security if the first defender is passed. In that case, he takes over as first defender, and ideally one of the third defenders takes over as second defender. The team should be organised in a manner to make this transition as fast as possible. The typical ideal distance between the second and first defender is about six metres, but this will vary strongly from situation to situation. The most important factor is the opponent's speed. If he's moving fast, the distance should be longer. If he's standing still, the second and first defender may in some cases join forces and work as two first defenders.

The job of the third defender is to provide deep cover. He is generally in a stand-off position relative to the first and second defenders and tries to view the "big picture", keeping watch for new opponents moving up, and covering vulnerable gaps if the first and second defenders are bypassed. The sweeper role is sometimes conceived as that of a third defender, but every defensive player not immediately engaging the ball has the obligation to adjust his positioning to guard against dangerous situations and to plug vulnerable gaps. While the role of first and second defenders are rather similar, the third defenders' role is very different in zone defence and man-to-man defence. Also, their organisation will vary with formation.

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