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Soccer Positions on the Field

What are the various soccer positions on the field? Soccer positions are an important part of the game as they lay down the position and the role of each player. So to help you improve your soccer team tactics, here's a bit about the soccer positions on the field and what role each player plays.
What makes soccer positions so important? Knowing each players individual role helps the team decide the game plan. When you come up against a team, you have to try every trick in the book to be able to break them down and beat them. This means that you have to know their strengths and weaknesses so that you can exploit them to your advantage. Playing the right player in the right position to counter the corresponding opposition players position is of paramount importance. Hence, knowing all about the soccer positions on the field becomes pretty important.

Soccer Field Positions

Common knowledge: There are 11 players in a team. Uncommon knowledge: They can be arranged in more ways than one. It is the job of the soccer coach to be able to identify correctly each player's range of abilities and play him in the correct positions to be able to gain an advantage over the opposition. So here are the key soccer positions on the field.

Goalkeeper
This one doesn't change much. The goalkeeper is last line of defense and is the only one who is allowed to use his hands, to block a shot from going into the goal. The goalkeeper is supposed to stay just in front of the goal and stop all the shots on the goal. Occasionally, when an opposition player beats all the other players of the team, the goalkeeper may also have to make a tackle on the opposition player to stop the goal-ward advance of the opposition player. Some of the best goalkeeper of the world today? Iker Casillas (Spain) and Edwin Van Der Sar (Holland) get my vote.

Center-Back/Center-Half/Sweeper
Known by different names, but the role of the center back remains pretty much the same. The center back is, as the name suggests, the center of the defensive line of a team. The job of a center back is to stop all the attacks coming into the penalty area, to mark the opposition strikers in the center, and stop the crosses from wide and the passes through the center from coming into the path of the opposition striker.

The center back is usually a fairly tall, physically well built player with a good sense of timing as to when to tackle. A robust center back can get in the way of the run of the opposition players. Hence the soccer positions on the field of the center-backs are occupied by the tallest and the toughest players. A center back also has to be quick on his toes to track the wily movements of the opposition. Teams in the 70s and 80s often employed a single center back in a 3 man defense-line(then known as the sweeper), but with the game becoming more and more attack minded and the offense players becoming faster and craftier, most teams today play with two center-backs in a 4-man defense line. Best center backs in the world today? Watch out for Nemanja Vidic (Serbia), Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium) and John Terry (England).

Fullbacks/Wingbacks
It has been widely accepted for a long time that a team should play with 2 wing-backs, one on the left and one on the right. As the name once again suggests, wingbacks play on the wings in the defense. Their job is to man the wide areas, to cover the players running in from the wings, and to stop the players from crossing the ball into the center. Full backs also often play the role of running forward and crossing the ball into the opposition's penalty area.

To this end, a wingback needs to be fast and needs to be able to dribble the ball fairly well. Wingbacks, like centerbacks need to be strong and to be able to physically outmaneuver the opposition players. Left wingbacks tend to be left-footed so that they can deliver a robust cross. Similarly right wing-backs need to be right-footed. Best wingbacks in the world today? Patrice Evra (France) and Ashley Cole (England).

Defensive Midfielders/Holding Midfielders
As the soccer midfield is increasingly split into two-lines as opposed to just the one we've had before, the specialized soccer position(s) on the field of the 'holding midfielder' has become fairly prominent. Usually, in the old 4-4-2 system, there used to be one midfielder who'd be put in the defensive role, but with the 4-1-3-2 and the 4-2-3-1 systems becoming more and more popular, the defensive midfielder has become a more and more prominent member of a team. A team may employ one or two players to play as the defensive midfield who's job is to provide a screening line for the defense. So the opposition players need to first get past the defensive midfielders before reaching the center-backs. The defensive midfielder has one of the toughest jobs on the pitch trying to combine and coordinate both the attack and the defense of the team. On one side, the defensive midfielder has to tackle the opposition players and collect all the loose balls on the pitch that sometimes opposition players half-heartedly or unsuccessfully pass, and at the same time, take the ball away and burst forward and spray the ball around to the players in front. The defensive midfielder is the main passer in the team and has to pass the ball to all parts of the pitch. So basically he needs to be tough and strong with both feet. While a defensive midfielder need not be fast, it is always an added advantage. Best defensive midfielders today? Michael Essien (Ghana), Javier Mascherano (Argentina) and Andrea Pirlo (Italy).

Attacking Midfielders/Playmaker
Now the definition of an attacking midfielder can be fairly vague at times. An attacking midfielder as the name suggests should be any player in the midfielder who runs in at the goal of the opposition team. But in common parlance, an attacking midfielder is often only the player(s) who attack from the center. An attacking midfielder ideally ought to be one of the most creative players on the pitch. He should be aware of where the players of his team are and how he can best pass the ball to a player in a threatening goal-ward position. Which is why the attacking midfielder is known as the playmaker. An attacking midfielder sets up the play and the tone of his team's game. And to this end, the attacking midfielder should be positive and forward-looking. He should be creative, intelligent and as fast as fast can get. He should also be a good dribbler, and be able to take that odd shot on the goal with both legs. He should be able to head the ball as well. Basically, he should be a complete player. An attacking midfielder is one of the most important soccer positions on the field. A good, creative attacking midfielder is the cornerstone of a good football team and its success largely hinges on the quality of the attacking midfielder. Best attacking midfielders? Steven Gerrard (England), Cesc Fabregas (Spain) and Kaka (Brazil).

Wingers
Since the footballing definition of the attacking midfielder largely restricts him to a very central role, it becomes important to define a winger. A winger is largely an attacking player who attacks the opposition from the side. A winger gets the ball from the wingbacks and starts advancing forward. In the conventional English soccer strategy, you'll see the winger simply crossing the ball to the striker for him to score, but in the Spanish game, you can increasingly see the winger cutting inside into the center of the field, getting into the box and scoring as well.

A winger's most important trait-as is the case with any one who plays in the midfield position-is his passing ability. Wingers should be able to deliver long passes as well as short passes. Wingers generally may be asked to play way out wide (in a 4 man midfield formation such as the 4-4-2) or a bit more inside, with the wingbacks covering the absolute wide positions (in a three man midfield formation such as the 4-3-3). A winger should be fast and perhaps the best dribbler on the pitch. Wingers should be able to take a good shot on the goal and be able to cross the ball to the strikers well enough. Right-sided wingers need to have an able right foot and left sided wingers, a potent left foot. Wingers don't come better than Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), David Silva (Spain) and Lionel Messi (Argentina).

Striker and Second Striker
While most people tend to view the one/two men up front as men with very similar roles, I'd like to point out the subtle difference between the two.

In the conventional sense, a striker is the one who is supposed to stay in the box and score the goals with the passes coming in from all sides. In the conventional sense again, a striker should ideally be tall, robust, aware of the players around him, be an above average header of the ball and have good control of the ball to hold it and finish. Of course, conventional sense gets outdated soon in football and hence it becomes essential to redefine the role of the striker. Which explains the decline of the conventional strikers in the world today. A striker today is pretty much a perfectly complete player, who is also very fast and has to run a lot. Best strikers? Fernando Torres (Spain), David Villa (Spain) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden).

But if you do have one of those conventional strikers, whose great ability lies in being able to sit in the box and pick up the good passes and head the ball, then you also ought to have a potent second striker who can create the play around the striker. The second striker works as the perfect foil to, as well as the link between both the striker and the attacking midfielder. A second striker should be prepared to run, dribble and pass in addition to all the above qualities of a striker. He should be a good player with both feet. Best players in the second striker role? Wayne Rooney (England), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon) and Francesco Totti (Italy).

Right, so this was all about the soccer positions on the field. Now you can judge the qualities of each player in your team independently, and on the basis of the player's skills, pick the right player for the right position.
By Arjun Kulkarni
Last Updated: 9/22/2011
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