The importance of a good defence in football is often understated. Even though goals win games and a team's attackers hog most of the limelight, their efforts would come to nought if the football team's rearguard isn't potent enough to keep out the opposition.
Many successful football teams in the world have had good defences to complement their men up front. Some notable examples in this regard in football are France, Italy and Spain, who conceded just two goals in their respective victorious FIFA World Cup campaigns in 1998, 2006 and 2010. Spain conceded just once en route to winning the 2012 European Championships.
Such examples are in club football as well. Chelsea conceded just 15 goals in their victorious 2004-05 Premier League campaign. Juventus let in 20 goals apiece while winning the 2011-12 and 2015-16 Serie A titles. 10-man Inter Milan put up a defensive masterclass at the home of Barcelona in the 2009-10 Champions League semi-final second leg enroute to winning the competition.
The adage that defences win titles and championships couldn't have been more true. On that note, let us have a look at five football teams with the best defences at the moment.
#5 Inter Milan
In a league that is renowned for its defensive solidity, perhaps Inter Milan appearing in place of serial winners Juventus may be a surprise.
The Bianconeri may have won a ninth consecutive Scudetto last season, but their defence was incredibly leaky as they let in as many as 43 goals. It was the most they have conceded in a single Serie A season during their near decade-long stranglehold of the competition.
It was the Nerazzurri who impressed with their defence last season. They conceded seven fewer goals than the champions while garnering as many points (82) as they did during their treble-winning campaign in 2009-10 under Jose Mourinho.
Under Antonio Conte, Inter Milan play an aggressive brand of pressing and direct football while keeping things tight at the back. In fact, the Nerazzurri not only outscored Juventus but were impressive more impressive than the Serie A winners at the other end as well.
Last season, goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who kept 13 clean sheets in 35 games, was ably supported by the centre-back trio of Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Atletico-import Diego Godin in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 formation. Sitting midfielder Marcelo Brozovic was also key in this regard, taking pressure off the centre-backs, while providing them a passing option to bring the ball out.
The two Inter wing-backs Kwadwo Asamoah and Danilo d'Ambrosio provide width, while De Vrij is also tasked with producing defence-splitting passes to the dynamic duo of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
With such personnel at the helm and tactical fluidity to go with it, Inter could mount a formidable challenge to Juventus this season and end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance.
Under former Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla won a record-extending sixth Europa League title and finished a creditable fourth-place in the league to return to the Champions League after a two-season absence last term.
One of the most noticeable improvements in the team last season was their defensive solidity in how they played football. Sevilla conceded 34 goals in 2019-20, with only the Madrid duo of Real and Atletico letting in fewer than the Andalusian club.
Key to Sevilla's immediate upturn in their defensive fortune (they conceded 47 in 2018-19) was their central defensive pair of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos. They were plucked out from Ligue 1 for a combined fee of €40 million at the start of last season, in Lopetegui's preferred 4-3-3 formation. The 21-year-old Kounde, with his ball-distribution prowess, acted as the sweeper to begin attacking moves while Carlos preferred to stay deep.
Ably supported by captain Jesus Navas, who played in an unfamiliar right-back position, Real Madrid loanee Sergio Reguilon on the other flank and 32-year-old defensive midfielder Fernando Reges, Sevilla had a formidable rearguard.
The two Sevilla full-backs were also given the license to venture upfield and aid the men upfront, a brand of football they performed admirably as is evident in their combined tally of 11 assists. The pair also had the pace and tactical discipline to drop back and cut out opposition crosses.
Lopetegui's football team also has tactical fluidity. That was evident in the game against Barcelona when defensive midfielder Reges dropped back to join Kounde and Carlos in a three-man defence, which stifled Barcelona upfront and helped Sevilla earn a creditable draw.
Despite their attacking formation, Sevilla suffered from a paucity of goals upfront. If they manage to improve on that front this season and also add an attacking midfielder to their ranks who could chip in with goals, the Andalusian club could have the wherewithal to challenge the three big boys of Spanish football.