Soccer Positions Explained
Football positions are as varied as the skills of players and the tactics of the game. Find out which spot you belong.
Soccer has many different positions and many different names that come along with them.
Each player position has his own very specific task, from defending against opponent attacks to scoring.
To simplify, we will categorize the football positions into four: the goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, and forwards.
The goalkeeper is simply known as the guy with gloves who keeps the opponents from scoring. He has a special position because only him can play the ball with his hands (provided that he is inside his own penalty area and the ball was not deliberately passed to him by a team mate).
Aside from being the last line of defense, the goalkeeper is the first person in attack. That is why keepers who can make good goal kicks and strategic ball throws to team mates are valuable.
The goalie has four main roles: saving, clearing, directing the defense, and distributing the ball. Saving is the act of preventing the ball from entering the net while clearing means keeping the ball far from the goal area.
The goalkeeper has the role of directing the defense since he is the farthest player at the back and he can see where the defenders should position themselves.
Distributing the ball happens when a goalkeeper decides whether to kick the ball or throw it after making a save. Where the keeper throws or kicks the ball is the first instance of attack.
Some of history’s finest goalkeepers are Lev Yashin, Gordon Banks, Dino Zoff, Peter Schmeichel, and Gianluigi Buffon.
A defender’s task is to keep the ball away from the keeper, prevent opposing attackers from passing or receiving, and block shots. Defending requires a player to be well-fit, hard-working, and quick at anticipating the movement of the opponents.
Defenders must protect the keeper: they should think of the goalie as an important person that opponents are not allowed to get near to. Typically, teams play with four defenders.
Center-back/center-half/central defender (CB)
In a four-player defense, the center-backs are the two defenders in the middle. They are erroneously called center-halves, because in an obsolete football formation called the 2-3-5, the “3” players are designated with that name. As tactics evolved, the “3” dropped to “center-back” but still retained the name “center-half.”
A center back must be strong, fearless, and good at timing tackles. Being tall is an advantage for a center-back as it allows him to win the ball in the air, an essential skill in corner kick situations. Ronald Koeman, Fabio Cannavaro, and Franco Baresi are some of the greatest center backs of all time.
Full-back (LB, FB)
A full-back is a defender positioned on the side. They are either classified as left back (LB) or right back (RB). The defenders positioned between them are called centerbacks.
The full-back is tasked to prevent opponents from attacking on the sides. He must be quick and must be able to prevent opponents from making a cross. He is often assigned to mark the opposing winger.
Wing-back (LWB, RWB)
A wing-back is a full-back that advances up to the opponent’s goal end. He runs the whole length of the football pitch: he defends the flanks like a dedicated full-back and attacks like a winger.
This is the most physically demanding position on the field. Cafu and Roberto Carlos are two of the best wing-backs ever.