In the sport of association football, a defender is an outfield player whose primary role is to prevent the opposition from attacking.
There are four types of defender: centre-back, sweeper, full-back and wing-back. The centre-back and full-back positions are essential in most modern formations. The sweeper and wing-back roles are more specialised for certain formations.
The job of the centre-back (also known as the 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.
The position was formerly referred to as centre-half, although the emphasis of the centre-half was more forward thinking in action. In the early part of the 20th century, when most teams employed the 2–3–5 formation, the two players at the back were called full-backs and the row of three players in front of them were called half-backs. As formations evolved, the central player in this trio, the centre-half, moved into a more defensive position on the field, taking the name of the position with him. The right and left players in the trio were called the right-half and left-half respectively.
In the modern game, 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.