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What is a center back in soccer? Roles, Responsibilities, Position

center back in soccer

A center-back is a classic defender who patrols the center of the pitch. Often used in corner kicks because of their height, center backs play defense most of the game, coming up in the attack only to help midfielders with passes back toward their own goal if there is too much pressure.

Center Back Roles and Responsibilities

The center backs are part of the defensive line and tend to play in the middle of the field. One of the centerbacks is often designated as the sweeper, whose job is to “sweep” away any through balls or passes that sneak through the last line of defense. Center backs are often tall, strong players who can win balls in the air and be a threat just through sheer presence.

The typical defender, these are usually the largest and strongest player on the field. They patrol their central defensive half of the field, usually defending the strikers and center forwards. In an x-y-z formation that starts with four defenders on the backline, the center two are designated as center backs with two wider defensive players.

Center Back Positioning

As their name implies, center backs are generally positioned somewhere in the center of the backfield just in front of their team’s own goal. In any given formation, there are usually one or two center backs. This means that the center back, or center backs, is the last line of defense before the goalkeeper while the remaining defensive backs are further towards the midfield. For example, a 4-4-2 formation has two center backs in the middle and two fullbacks guarding the sides.

Center Back Skills

Typical center-backs are both large and strong because they are so important as the last line of defense before the goalkeeper. If there is more than one center back in a formation, players will often have more skills related to zone coverage. In those situations, they will typically need to cover either the right or left side of the field rather than target specific offensive players. Center backs should also be skilled in play reading since they will often be used in an x-y-z formation with three or five defenders.

Notable Center Backs

  • Alessandro Nesta
  • Bobby Moore
  • Carlos Puyol
  • Fabio Cannavaro
  • Franco Baresi
  • Franz Beckenbauer
  • Ronald Koeman
  • Sergio Ramos
  • Virgil van Dijk