Ever been sitting with a couple of soccer fans and listened to them talk about the game? Ever wondered what they meant when they mentioned terms like fullback, striker or sweeper? For enthusiasts, soccer positions are second nature, for others they can seem like part of a foreign language.
For those of you who face the onslaught of the 2010 FIFA World Cup with some trepidation, who see it more as an opportunity to be ridiculed for lack of soccer knowledge than a celebration of “the beautiful game”, the following short guide may be of some use when trying to hold your own in the pub the day after a World Cup match.
Soccer Positions – 3 Broad Areas
Soccer is a game played by teams made up of 11 players each. Though there are variations from team to team in some of the positions, and in the number of players allotted to each position, the disposition of soccer players on the field can be broken down into 3 areas:
Players who play defence are tasked with blocking the opposing team’s strikers or forwards from scoring. They play closer to the rear of the field (i.e. closer to their own goal) than their team mates.
Midfield players spend much of their time in the middle third of the field. They form the conduit between their team’s attacking squad and its defenders. The midfield is often considered to be the heart of the game.
Attack players are the glamour end of the team. Their task is to receive the ball from the midfielders and score goals. Though they are high in profile and placed at the front of the field, they cannot function without skilled midfield and defence players behind them.
Individual Soccer Positions
The Goalkeeper. The goalie stays close to his goal and attempts to defend it. He wears gloves and a different shirt to his team mates and he is the only player allowed to use his hands. During play he may use any part of his body to block shots at goal as long as he remains within his penalty box.
Backs. The backs play closer to their own goal than any other player, besides the goalie. Broken into centre backs (who play the middle of the back field) and fullbacks (who flank the centre backs), their job is to block attacking players and stop them from scoring. Many teams will field two centre backs and two fullbacks.
Offensive Midfielder. Midfielders play between the backs and the forwards. The offensive midfielder will play closer to the forwards and aid in attacking.
Defensive Midfielder. Usually works as the second half of a pair with the offensive midfielder, but plays closer to the backs and aids in defence rather than attack.
Wingers. This position plays wide, working the field outside the offensive and defensive midfielders. They aim to feed the ball to the strikers for goal shots and may also attack the goal themselves.
Forwards. The forwards play exactly where you’d expect – up front. They lead the action and tie up the opposing defenders.
Strikers. Part of the forwards, strikers are the players dedicated to shooting for goal. Strikers are some of the most talented players and will often imprint their personality on a team.
Some teams will have more specialised definitions such as a “sweeper” or a “stopper”, but the information above is enough for you to recognise the standard soccer positions. You may not be able to list the great strikers of the last ten years, but you won’t look quite so vacant now when that bloke in the pub nudges you, nods knowingly and barks “some fullback, huh?”
To learn more about the various positions in soccer check out this video.