Football strikers

The job of a striker or a forward is to either score goals or help their team mates score a goal. Modern football teams usually play between one and three strikers, with fielding two strikers the most common but one becoming increasingly used among teams.

Strikers usually work best in a partnership. Teams can field any attacking combinations of center-forward, deep-lying forward, attacking midfielder, or winger.

If a team fields one striker, their remit is usually to hold the ball up for mid- field runners to come and join in the attack. The striker obviously also looks to score himself, but it is increasingly less important for him to do so providing the midfield runners score enough goals.

Center-forward position

The center-forward player leads the attack. This position receives forward passes, wins headers and keeps possession of the ball called holding the ball up, in order to bring team mates into play.

Center-forwards are usually tall and/or physically strong (though exceptions to this rule exist). A top-quality center-forward expects to score around one goal every other game; however, increasingly a center-forward’s first responsibility is to keep attacks going, bringing other players into the game. This kind of forward should still notch a healthy number of goals, but providing the team is scoring and the center-forward is an integral part of that, modern coaches are less concerned about a striker’s personal tally.

Center-forwards usually work best with a partner. Often the most effective partnerships consist of players with contrasting abilities: tall and small, powerful and mobile, direct and tricky. At other times, players who seem to be similar can work very well together, such as the nimble and diminutive for- ward pairing of Romario and Bebeto for Brazil at the 1994 World Cup.

Deep-lying (or second) striker position

A deep-lying striker is not expected to hold the ball up, but drops back, either into central midfield, onto the wings, or into what’s known as the hole between the opposition’s defense and their midfield. This hole is difficult
to define in practice, but in theory is the part of the field where opposition defenders and midfielders are either unsure or unwilling to follow attackers. This gives the deep-lying striker time and space in which to make dangerous passes or take shots on goal. He’s sometimes known as a false 9, because he lines up as a forward but actually drops back into midfield much of the time.

Hungary’s famous 6-3 win over England in 1953 graphically illustrated the benefits of playing in the hole. Seen as a seminal moment in English soccer when England realized they’d fallen behind the rest of the world; the game saw Hungarian striker Nándor Hidegkuti dropping between the English defensive line and midfield. With nobody tracking him, he was allowed to run riot.

One of the most effective deep-lying strikers of modern years has been Francisco Totti, although Lionel Messi has at times also played that role to marvelous effect.