If you’re playing as a defender in a soccer game or watching a soccer game you’ll realize that the role of a defender is to stop the opposition from getting the ball near their goal. But if the defender finds themselves further up the field than usual they could potentially end up in a goal-scoring position. At this moment they need to know what they can do with the ball.
Can a defender score in soccer? There are no restrictions on defenders when it comes to scoring a goal in soccer. It is completely acceptable and within the rules of the game for a defender to score. Any player on the field can score a goal regardless of which position they are playing in.
Seeing a defender score a goal, or be in a position too, may not be what you would expect in a soccer game, but it does happen fairly regularly. There are even some defenders who have scored over 100 goals throughout their career in soccer and we’ll take a look at them a bit further down this article.
Being in the right position is key
Throughout a game of soccer, there can be multiple goal-scoring opportunities. This can occur from set-pieces or open play. What is important in these moments is that one of the players on the team is in a position to direct the ball towards the goal and hopefully(for the attacking team at least) see the ball go over the goal line and into the goal net.
When it comes to the question of which player is in that position we most often assume it will be the striker who is the player most likely to be in that position. And this is a reasonable assumption.
The striker/s on the team are the players who play nearest to the opposition goal and are expected to be the players who are most capable and ready to score a goal when given the opportunity too.
In soccer, there are no restrictions on any player scoring a goal. Whether the player is playing as a defender, midfielder, striker, or even the goalkeeper, any player is allowed to score.
There are times in every game where a defender will find themselves in a potential goal-scoring position. And at this moment their whole team and spectators will be hoping they do score!
If you’re interested in knowing whether there are any restrictions on where a defender can go on a soccer field, click here to check out my article – Can Defenders Cross Midfield in Soccer?
The rules of the game of soccer state that…
“A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar, provided that no offense has been committed by the team scoring the goal.”FIFA Rules of the Game 2019
As long as a defender has followed these rules then they have officially scored a goal!
To find out much more about Defensive Positions in Soccer, have a look at this article I recently wrote explaining everything you need to know about this area of the soccer field.
It’s harder for a defender to score
Just because a defender is allowed to score a goal doesn’t mean it is something that you see every game. This mainly comes down to the position on the field that a defender plays in.
When a soccer player is playing in the position of defender they are playing at the back of the field closest to their own goal. In a soccer formation, you will often see 3, 4, or 5 players expected to play in a defensive position.
As we mentioned before, the role of a defender is to do their best to defend their goal from the opposition team getting the ball close to it and potentially scoring a goal.
This naturally puts the defender far away from the goal their team is trying to score in. And the further away a player is the harder it will be to score a goal.
Situations where you are most likely to see a defender score
Although players are expected to stay where they have been asked in a team formation, there is an amount of flexibility allowed in this as well.
The players are not expected to stick rigidly to this no matter what. They are expected to engage their minds. They are expected to follow the flow of the game, judge what is happening and position themselves in the best place for the benefit of the whole team.
Sometimes this will mean coming much further forward than usual as having an extra player further up the field may be exactly what is needed at that moment to give their team an advantage.
This can be one of the situations where you will see a defender score. Usually during a sustained period of attacking by the team where the defenders may have been pushing further and further up the field to keep the pressure on the opposite team.
At this point, a defender may have been close enough to the opposition goal to have a shot on goal and score.
Much more common is to see defenders scoring from a set-piece.
One way a defender scores from a set-piece is by actually taking the kick themselves and kicking the ball straight into the goal.
Throughout the history of the game, there have been defenders who have been the best player on their team at taking free-kicks. They are highly skilled at accurately kicking the ball where they want it to go. This has lead to many defenders scoring goals
Another way a defender can score is by being the first to get the ball from a set-piece.
When a team has a corner kick or a free-kick near the opposition goal one or two of the defenders will sometimes go up the field into the opposition’s goal area to be an extra player available to receive the ball when it is kicked into the goal area.
The idea of this is to increase the chances of one of their own team receiving the ball from the kick. If the ball end’s up with a defender they have a reasonable chance of scoring.
The player taking the corner or free-kick will actually often aim for the defender. This is because being a defender in the opposition goal area can be an advantage.
Some defenders have an advantage when it comes to scoring
A defender’s job is to stop two things from getting past. The ball and the other team’s players.
When your job is to stop something two characteristics are important. One is height and the other is strength.
In soccer, defenders are often tall and strong. Often times they are the tallest and strongest players on the team.
This can be a significant advantage when contesting for the ball from a set-piece. They are able to use their height to get there head to the ball before the opposition players and they can use their strength to hold back other players from getting the ball before them.
These advantages have led many defenders to score a goal.
The 5 highest scoring defenders in soccer
So let’s look at the defenders who have scored more goals than any other defender in world soccer.
1: Ronald Koeman (253 goals)
The Dutch-born defender has scored more goals than any other defender in the history of soccer.
He was a free-kick specialist and the vast majority of his goals came from taking free-kicks and penalties for the teams he played for at both club and international level.
In one season alone while playing for PSV in the Netherlands he scored 26 goals.
He is also the highest goalscoring defender for Barcelona, where he scored 90 goals throughout the duration of his career there.
2: Daniel Passarella (175 goals)
The Argentine central defender was not only a prolific goal-scorer but he is also considered one of the best soccer defenders ever.
He scored 134 goals in just 451 league games alone. (The other goals came in cup and international games)
Although he was a great free-kick and penalty taker he also scored a lot of goals with his head which is unusual for a relatively short defender. He was only 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) tall.
3: Fernando Hierro (163 goals)
The Spanish player Fernando Hierro was another player who although being the main free-kick and penalty taker for his teams, also scored many goals with his head from set-pieces.
He was a dominating presence in both his own and the opposition’s goal areas. And always carried the threat of scoring a goal in every game he played in.
As the captain for both Real Madrid and Spain, he was clearly one of the great defenders of his time and in soccer history.
4: Laurent Blanc (153 goals)
The French defender actually started his soccer career as an attacking midfielder but spent the majority of his career playing in defense. This may be how he developed his appetite for scoring goals, however.
He scored a lot of goals from set-pieces for all the clubs he played for as well as scoring 16 international goals for France including in the 1998 World Cup.
He still holds the goal scoring record at the French club Montpelier where he first played professional soccer.
5: Graham Alexander (130 goals)
The Scotsman, Graham Alexander, was the first choice penalty kick taker for the soccer clubs he played for throughout his career. This lead to his exceptionally high tally of goals scored.
He was also very capable of scoring goals in open play as well. He would often make his way up the field during an attacking period by his team and get himself in the perfect position to score a goal.
All his goals came in club football, never having found himself able to score at international level.
*Check out the next post – The 17 qualities you find in Every Great Defensive Midfielder*
*Or if you’re looking for more on scoring goals click here to go to the article I wrote on why players pick up the ball after scoring a goal.*
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