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What Do Forwards Do in Football (Soccer)?

Nigel is a football (soccer) fan since his childhood days. He also plays football as a left-back and is a long time fan of Liverpool FC.

Strikers of world football (from left to right), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and Edinson Cavani.

Strikers of world football (from left to right), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and Edinson Cavani.

What Is a Forward and What Do They Do?

To put it in simple terms, forwards are the players on the football field that play the closest to the opponent's goal. They are responsible for scoring goals on behalf of their team. Since they are the closest to the opponent's goal, forwards are expected to score more goals than their teammates on other positions. These days, forwards can be deployed as tactical players, such as the false 9, which are "dummy forwards" that lure the defenders away in order to let a winger or another striker make a run into a goal-scoring position.

Luis Suarez during his time with Liverpool FC.

Luis Suarez during his time with Liverpool FC.

How to Be a Great Forward

1) Train your finishing skills

You must go through the goalkeeper to score a goal. In order to go through the goalkeeper, you must work on targeting the areas in the goal that they can't cover, such as the top corner. Besides accuracy, shot power plays an important role in scoring too.

2) Practice to be cool under pressure

Many of the great forwards in the world have the ability to keep cool when they are facing the opposing defenders. The position is often under pressure, however, a good forward who can stay cool and calm can usually score goals with no issues.

3) Be unpredictable with your movements

When you have quick reactions and/or accurate finishing skills, you can be a deadly forward since defenders will not know where you will be going next. A great forward can keep the opposing players guessing their next move. Some of the ways to do this is to sprint behind the defenders or create a deep link-up play.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stages.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stages.

4) Train your physical build

Most forwards have a pretty muscular build that aids in their strength and speed. This helps in moving the opposing defenders away from you when you hold the ball or to get away from the opposing defenders during a goal-scoring opportunity.

5) Play for the team

Sometimes forwards have to make a sacrifice for the team. In some scenarios, forwards may not hold the ball for long because another player may have a better opportunity to score and must pass to them. Playing as a team makes you a great forward. Solid teamwork is a necessity to winning games.

Forwards (in red) in a 4-3-3 formation.

Forwards (in red) in a 4-3-3 formation.

The Different Types of Forward Positions

Center-Forward

This is the traditional position for a forward. It's usually dubbed the "traditional number 9" position. The role of this position is to score goals on behalf of the team. Besides scoring goals, this position requires the player to win the ball, receive long passes and retain possession of the ball. Center-forwards must also provide passes for other teammates or retain possession until one can score the goal.

Striker

The role of a striker is similar to the center-forward as both positions require the player to score goals. However, strikers are required to be quick to get away from the opposing defenders or to run into blind spots to receive the ball in a goal-scoring position. Some notable strikers include Michael Owen and Sergio Aguero.

Second Striker

This position is more of a tactical role where the player can play as a dummy striker (similar to a false 9) or a target man. This position is known as the "number 10" position where the player needs to be good in his/her dribbling ability, passing and link-up play with the striker. A second striker has more freedom to roam as they do not need to stick to just one area of the field. Some notable second strikers include Michel Platini (Juventus) and Wayne Rooney (Manchester United & DC United).

Inside Forward

Inside forwards are not seen often today; the position was popular in the late 19th century to early 20th century. Inside forwards play as support to the strikers. This position was used in the 2-3-5 formations of traditional football where they played slightly behind the main strikers. This role is known as a second striker today.

Outside Forward

Similar to the inside forward position, an outside forward was popular up until the early 20th century. This position make runs to the front to find a passing opportunity to the center-forward to score a goal. These days, the position is known as a winger.

Inside forwards (now second strikers) and wingers (previously outside forwards) in a traditional 3-2-5 formation.

Inside forwards (now second strikers) and wingers (previously outside forwards) in a traditional 3-2-5 formation.

Wingers

Wingers are the modern day version of the outside strikers. They play on the wide sides of the fields near the boundary lines. Wingers are commonly used in the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formations. A winger's duty is to beat the opposing full-backs and cut into the penalty box or create crossing chances to find the center-forward for a goal. Wingers are usually the quickest players on the field.

False 9

A false 9 is the modern term for a second striker. However, these days, they are more important for a team than the traditional striker position. In today's game, the false 9 creates problems for center-backs by luring them into marking the forwards so that wide midfielders (e.g., wingers) can make a run into a goal-scoring position. One example of a false 9 player is Roberto Firmino of Liverpool FC.

Target Forwards

Another term for this forward position is "target man". This forward position is catered to the players who have the ability to win balls in the air in order to score goals or create chances for other teammates to score. These players are usually tall and physically strong. Some good examples of these players are Peter Crouch (England) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden).

(Left) Zlatan Ibrahimovic and (Right) Peter Crouch. These target forwards are tall and strong.

(Left) Zlatan Ibrahimovic and (Right) Peter Crouch. These target forwards are tall and strong.

Some Notable Strike Teams in Football

Strike partnerships is when two or more strikers work together in a team. In the history of football, there have been many teams that have had the honor to house these star strikers on their team. Some famous strike partnerships include:

  • The Fab Four (Liverpool FC in 2018) consisted of Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho. These four had a total of 47 goals for a single UEFA Champions League season.
  • MSN (Barcelona 2015-16) consisted of Lionel Messi (M), Luis Suarez (S) and Neymar (N). The trio had scored 131 goals in the 2015-16 La Liga season.
  • SAS (Liverpool FC in 2013-14) consisted of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in the 2013-14 Premier League season. The duo nearly won the league title that season for Liverpool FC.

© 2020 Nigel Koay Talks Football

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