Striker Vs Center Forward (Only Goal Scorers?)

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If you’re a soccer fan, you’ve probably heard people discuss strikers and center forwards like they are the same thing. You might be surprised to hear that, while similar, these positions are quite different. 

Strikers are goal-scoring machines, looking to find the back of the net at every opportunity. Center forwards are facilitators, often setting up strikers and creating chances for teammates. 

Next, we’re going to break down both positions and discuss the subtle differences that make them unique. We’ll also take a look at the influence of video games on how fans learn about soccer positions. The main areas of focus include: 

  • What is a striker?
  • What is a center forward?
  • Tactical attacking styles
  • How video games have influenced the game
striker vs center forward

The Striker

The striker plays in more advanced positions than any other player on the team. Although some teams play with two strikers, most modern formations involve one out-and-out striker, with other attackers surrounding them.

The striker is typically the primary goal threat for a team and is often afforded total freedom of movement to be as effective as possible. 

There are many different types of strikers in soccer. Depending on the size, athleticism, and skill level of the player, they may adopt a certain style. Large, physical strikers, like Romelu Lukaku, rely on their strength and speed to pin defenders, sprint past opponents and compete for crosses. 

Shorter strikers like Sergio Aguero, use pace, agility, dribbling skills, and positioning to get into goalscoring positions.

As we’ve seen with the likes of Radamel Falcao, height isn’t everything when it comes to scoring with your head. Soccer players, and in particular, strikers, can be effective regardless of their size. 

When you combine size, skill, athleticism, and natural talent, you get the best strikers in the world. In the modern game, we have a handful of truly elite all-around strikers that bring a little bit of everything to the table, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Kylian Mbappe. 

Striker and Center Forward FAQs

What Is the Role of a Striker in Soccer?

The main role of most strikers in soccer is to score goals. Most strikers are judged on their goal contributions. We often witness some of the best strikers in the world play poorly for an entire game but manage to score two important goals, helping their team win. In many cases, a striker has a good day at the office if they manage to put the ball in the back of the net. 

However, strikers also have other roles. They must be available to receive the ball from midfielders while under pressure from defenders. Strikers are responsible for holding off defenders and linking the play with wingers, center forwards, and midfielders. 

In some teams, strikers must also be an outlet or long ball option. This means they must be available to either flick on long passes from defenders, control the ball while surrounded by defenders, or make runs in behind the defense for an over-the-top pass. 

RankPlayerGoalsYears Active
1Cristiano Ronaldo8072002 – present
2Pelé7651957 – 1977
3Lionel Messi7582004 – present
Romario7531985 – 2007
5Ferenc Puskás7291943 – 1966
6Josef Bican7201931 – 1955
7Jimmy Jones6471947 – 1964
8Gerd Muller6341964 – 1981
9Eusébio6221958 – 1981
10Joe Bambrick6161926 – 1943
11Glenn Ferguson5621987 – 2011
12Zlatan Ibrahimovic5591999 – present
The top scorers in soccer history.

The Center Forward

The term center forward is often used incorrectly to describe a striker. A center forward plays mainly between the lines, meaning they occupy half positions, between the midfield and attack. 

While a striker does a lot of work off the ball, making runs behind the defense or into the penalty box, a center forward is generally more effective with the ball at his or her feet.

Rather than sprinting away from the ball, looking for a goalbound pass, the center forward moves toward the ball to gain possession. A center forward is usually one of the team’s main creative outlets, using their first touch, dribbling, and movement to create space in the opposition territory.

As a productive attacker, a center forward is constantly trying to find ways to create goal-scoring attacks, through passing, quick one-twos, dribbling, or shooting themselves. 

Some center forwards also have defensive duties, dropping into midfield when the opposition is in possession. If a team sets out with very defensive tactics, the center forward will often man-mark the center defensive midfielder of the opposition team.

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What Does a Center Forward Do?

One of the key differences between a center forward and a striker is what they are expected to contribute to the team. Although a striker may have some specific tactical instructions, their main responsibility is to score goals. A center forward generally has a broader set of responsibilities, such as: 

  • Chance creation
  • Breaking defensive lines
  • Dictating the tempo of the game
  • Switching the play
  • Defending the opposition midfield
  • Pressing
  • Scoring 

Some of the best center forwards in today’s game are: 

  • Lionel Messi
  • Harry Kane
  • Kai Havertz
  • Kevin DeBruyne
  • Bruno Fernandes
striker vs center forward 2
Bruno Fernandes is a versatile attacker who often plays best like an advanced center forward.

The Tactical Decisions

Many teams play with a center forward and a striker. However, this isn’t always the case. Let’s take a look at why a team might start with different types of attacking players. 

Center Forward vs Striker 

If a coach has to choose between a center forward or a striker, he or she will almost always select a striker. A team that plays with a center forward but no striker is likely to lack balance. 

With no attacking focal point, they may not be able to create goal-scoring chances or penetrating plays.

However, in an extremely defensive setup, a team could work effectively without a striker, using the extra midfielder or defender to plug any potential holes in the defense. This tactical style would rely on counterattacks to create chances. 

It is common for teams to play without a center forward. Instead, they use wingers to create goalscoring opportunities or add an extra midfielder to dominate possession.

Center Forward vs False 9

The false 9 position has evolved in recent years as an effective tactic for teams with high-scoring wingers. A false 9 essentially operates as a hybrid player, somewhere between a striker and a center forward. He or she is usually the best playmaker on the team. False 9s are typically highly skilled and intelligent players.

They have excellent movement, creating pockets of space to evade defenders and pick up possession.

Effective false 9s must also be adept creators, bringing teammates into play and setting up goals directly. Teams generally don’t play every game with a false 9. It is usually a tactical option that they deploy in certain games. However, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Barcelona have used false 9s to great effect in the past decade. 

Some notable players that have done awesome jobs in the false 9 position include: 

  • Roberto Firmino
  • Kevin DeBruyne
  • Lionel Messi
  • Cesc Fabregas
  • Paulo Dybala
The Day False 9 Lionel Messi Was Introduced To The World ► Messi Vs Real Madrid (2/5/2009)

Unsurprisingly, Messi is one of the best to ever play in the false 9.

The Influence of Video Games On Soccer

Soccer video games have helped grow the sport over the past two decades. While it has long been the biggest sport in the world, it lagged considerably behind the likes of American football, basketball, and baseball in the United States. Video games help players gain a better understanding of the sport without actually playing it.

They must become aware of player roles, positioning, attacking, defending, and tactics. Since each video game character is awarded points for their attributes, gamers can study the types of abilities that players in certain positions have. 

See also  Is Soccer A Contact Sport? (Unwritten Rules)

What’s more, in some video games, selecting players in the wrong position can weaken their abilities in-game. Therefore, causal gamers must learn to differentiate between a winger and a midfielder, a left full-back and a left wing-back, or a center forward and a striker. 

Scouting Reports

Soccer video games are not just for fans. Many professionals spend their time off playing FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, and Football Manager. In a recent New York Times article, former Arsenal winger, Alex Iwobi, admitted to using FIFA as a scouting tool for his opponents. 

The Everton attacker claimed to research his opponents in the game to analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

The Italian World Cup-winning maestro, Andrea Pirlo, famously spoke about playing video games on the day of the 2006 World Cup final: 

“I don’t feel pressure… I don’t give a toss about it. I spent the afternoon of Sunday, 9 July, 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.”

Andrea Pirlo, 2013

Pirlo Panenka Penalty vs England
His quote comes as no surprise when you consider Pirlo did this in a penalty shootout in the 2012 European Championships quarter-final. 

Center Forward Vs Striker FIFA 21

In the FIFA video game franchise, players set up their teams just like in the real sport, with several formation options. Center forwards typically play behind the striker and link with the midfielders. 

Players can modify each position, giving their center forward specific tactical instructions. For example, they can instruct them to drop deep into the midfield to get open for passes, or they can force them to stay up top and play close to the striker. 

In the FIFA games, the striker is the furthermost attacker and is responsible for scoring a lot of the goals. Although most formations use a striker, not all of them have a center forward. 

What’s the Difference Between ST and CF?

In video games, the names of positions are often shortened for a clearer visual effect. ST stands for ‘striker’, while CF stands for ‘center forward’. 

Where Is CF In FIFA?

The CF in a FIFA team is usually just behind the striker or in front of the midfield. However, if you’re wondering why certain teams don’t have the option of a CF, it’s likely to be down to the formation you have selected. 

Many formations don’t use a CF, often electing for a center attacking midfielder (CAM) or a three-player midfield instead. However, you can change the formation of your team to incorporate a center forward.

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Playing Soccer FAQ

Is soccer a contact sport?

While tackling with excessive force, charging, and striking opponents are illegal in soccer, players often overstep the boundaries. Although this generally results in appropriate sanctions being awarded, it doesn’t prevent significant contact from occurring.

What do soccer teams do at halftime?

At halftime, soccer teams exit the field. They return to their bench area. For youth teams, they may not have a locker room. However, many college and professional teams do head back to the locker room. 
The break is an opportunity for teams to collect themselves. They may talk about what is going well in the game, and what they need to resolve.

How do I join a soccer team?

Attend trials for schools, teams in your local area. If no trials are due, then contact the coach to see if you can join a practice. Search for local soccer teams and try a few to see if it suits your ability and it also needs to be a place that you would enjoy. Scholarships are also available depending on your age, ability, and location. 

Why does a soccer ball curve?

The angle and speed with which the soccer player’s boot strikes the ball determine how far the ball travels. The ball won’t curve or spin if the player hits it right in the middle with their foot following through in a completely straight line.

What are some injuries players get when playing soccer? 

The most common knee and ankle injuries are mild to severe sprains, strains, and tears. Other less common knee and ankle injuries include dislocations and fractures.

What are some ways to pass a soccer ball?

+ Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
+ Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
+ The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
+ Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force you create a backspin.
+ Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
+ Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
+ Body: Use any part of the body to deflect the ball into the path you desire.

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