The job of the centre back, centre half, central defender, or stopper is to stop opposing players, particularly the strikers, from scoring, and to bring the ball out from their penalty area. As their name suggests, they play in a central position.
Most teams employ two centre backs, stationed in front of the goalkeeper. There are two main defensive strategies used by centre backs: the zonal defence, where each centre back covers a specific area of the pitch, and man-to-man marking, where each centre back has the job of covering a particular opposition player.
The main responsibilities of centre backs include:
- Marking threats in their immediate area (zonal defending) or to mark a particular opposition player (man marking).
- Making tackles on attacking players as the last line of defence against the opposition.
- Intercepting dangerous crosses, shots and through passes that cause an immediate danger to the team.
- Defending opposition corners and to stay in the opposition team’s penalty box for corners and set pieces with headers.
- Maintain the defensive posture. Due to the advent of the offside rule in the modern game, defenders and centre-backs in particular need to ensure that the defensive line is strictly enforced when opposition attacking players are near by. A defender that strays slightly behind the defensive line, for example, can “play” an opposition player onside and inadvertently create a scoring opportunity.
- Playing a simple game. Due to their proximity to goal, centre backs need to avoid over-elaboration and play short and simple passes to their colleagues upfield as well as avoid playing passes square across the defence, where they are vulnerable to interception by an opposition player.
Centre backs require a specialised range of attributes, which include:
- Height, good heading and jumping ability to contest balls in the air.
- Strength, marking and tackling ability to deal with one-on-one threats.
- Bravery and aggression to rush out and deal with any unexpected goal threats.
- Ability to read the game as well as anticipate incoming threats. Centre backs need to balance the need to deal with any imminent threat from the opposition and the need to maintain the defensive posture.
- Concentration. Centre backs need to focus on the task at hand and get interceptions, last-ditch tackles and headers correctly every time. They also need to ensure that they get a sure footing on the ball when clearing it so as to play it away from danger.
Lucio (Inter) / Nesta (Milan) / Maldini / Puyol (Barcelona) / Terry (Chelsea) / Gallas (Arsenal)
Ferdinand (Man U) / Cannavaro (Juventus) / Pique (Barcelona) / More players will added soon.