The importance of knowing the Game Principles – Center Backs and Defensive Coverage

Dante’s error in FC Porto’s 3rd goal in the 2014-15 Champions League Quarter-Finals showed us that there is lack of knowledge of how the game must be played at all levels.

Center-Backs and Keepers hold critical positions whose errors are magnified when they turn into an opponent’s goal.  Therefore, Center-Backs must know what to do in the different game situations.

Center-Backs must be very good at the Defensive Coverage Principle so they provide coverage to each other and the remainder players in their proximity.

Boateng, Dante’s team mate, shows what to do to protect his team mate’s back.


In the previous image we see how Boateng provides Dante Defensive Coverage.

This Defensive Coverage allows that in case Dante let’s the ball through and reaches Jackson Martinez, Boateng is able to face Porto’s Center Forward preventing him from having a 1v1 with Neuer, Bayern’s Keeper.  It also gives Dante confidence to be more aggressive towards winning possession as he knows that Boateng has his “back”.


From the images above we can validate that Boateng’s positioning allowed him to cover Dante who missed winning possession.

After the “Libero/Sweeper” Defense we have had the trend for a “Defense in Line”.  The players must be coached to have behaviors which are simple with high success probability.

Therefore, in the situations in which the opponent’s send long balls to the Center Forward, the Center Backs behavior must be as follows:

– The Center Back on the ball side must attack the ball trying to intercept it, ensuring ball possession;

– The other Center Back in the opposite side of the ball must provide Defensive Coverage to his team mate, dropping slightly behind and diagonally the other Center Back to protect him and preventing the opposing forward from having a 1v1 with the Keeper.


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By Pedro Mendonça

About Pedro Mendonça: Real Madrid Foundation - Football Coach/Professor. UEFA B Football Coach. Physical Education Teacher. Author of: "Tactical Periodization: A Practical Application for the Game Model of FC Bayern Munich"

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