Center Forward

Center Forward

What is a center forward in soccer? The center forward on a soccer team is a key player on the offensive side of the ball and is responsible for scoring goals and leading the attack.

As you probably guessed, the center forward typically plays at the center of the field, just ahead of the midfielders.

A strong and skilled center forward can make all the difference in a game, providing the team with a reliable scoring threat and helping to create opportunities for other players to get involved in the attack.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the role of the center forward in soccer, examining the specific skills and responsibilities required to excel in this position!

Role of a Center Forward in Soccer

As a center forward in soccer, your primary role is to score goals for your team. You are the player who is expected to be in the opposition’s penalty area and ready to receive the ball from your teammates.

Your position is usually at the top center of the formation, and you play a bit deeper compared to the striker.

Center Forward Position in Soccer

Your area of dominance is in the final third of the field, where you are responsible for creating goal-scoring opportunities for your team. This is where all the magic happens for you!

Key Skills for a Center Forward

As a center forward in soccer, you need to have a variety of offensive skills to be successful on the field. Here are some key skills that you should focus on improving:


One of the most important skills for a center forward is the ability to score goals. You should be able to finish with both feet and your head.

You also need to have good accuracy and be able to place the ball in the corners of the net.

To improve your scoring ability, you should practice shooting from different angles and distances. You can also practice finishing drills with a partner or in a small-sided game.


Another important skill for a center forward is positioning. You need to be able to read the game and find the right spaces to receive the ball.

You should also be able to make runs behind the defense and create space for your teammates.

To improve your positioning, watch videos of professional players and study their movements. You can also practice positioning drills with your coach or teammates. It’s all about angles and finding space so your teammates can play the ball into you.


While scoring is important, as a center forward, you also need to be able to pass the ball effectively. You should be able to play one-touch passes, through balls, and crosses.

You also need to be able to hold up the ball and bring your teammates into play.

To improve your passing, practice different types of passes with both feet. You can also practice passing drills with your teammates.

Attack Mentality

Not only does a good center forward need good ball skills, but they also need to have an attacking mentality. They need to be aggressive on the offensive end and have the confidence that they will score at any given time.

Without an aggressive center forward, the ball can sometimes die upfront. Instead, you should attack and press at all times.

What Formations Do Center Forwards Play In?

Center forwards can play in different formations depending on the tactical approach of the team. Some common formations that center forwards may play in include:

  1. 4-4-2: In this formation, the center forward usually plays alongside another striker and is responsible for leading the attacking line.
  2. 4-3-3: In this formation, the center forward is often paired with a left and right forward. They are expected to hold up the ball, create chances for teammates, and score goals.
  3. 3-5-2: In this formation, the center forward may play alongside another striker or as the lone striker, and is expected to provide a target for long balls and hold up play.
  4. 4-2-3-1: In this formation, the center forward is usually the lone striker and is responsible for leading the attacking line, holding up play, and creating scoring opportunities for teammates.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other formations that center forwards can play in depending on the team’s tactics and personnel.

Famous Center Forwards in Soccer History

A great center forward can change the outcome of a game with a single goal. Over the years, there have been many famous center forwards who have made their mark on the game.


Pelé is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. He played for Brazil from 1957-1971 and scored a total of 77 goals in 92 appearances. Pelé was a prolific scorer and his ability to find the back of the net made him one of the most feared center forwards in the game.

Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff was a Dutch soccer player who played for Ajax, Barcelona, and the Netherlands national team. He is considered one of the greatest players of all time and is credited with revolutionizing the game with his innovative style of play. Cruyff was a versatile player who could play in any position, but he is best known for his time as a center forward.


Ronaldo, also known as Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, is a retired Brazilian soccer player who is widely regarded as one of the greatest center forwards of all time. He played for Brazil from 1994-2011 and scored a total of 62 goals in 98 appearances. Ronaldo was known for his incredible speed, agility, and scoring ability.

Lionel Messi

messi the goat

Lionel Messi is an Argentine soccer player who is considered one of the greatest players of all time. He has spent most of his career playing for Barcelona and has scored over 700 goals for the club. Messi is a versatile player who can play in any position, but he is most effective as a center forward. His ability to score goals from almost any position on the field makes him a dangerous player for any opposing team.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese soccer player who is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation. He has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus. Ronaldo is a prolific scorer and his ability to find the back of the net has made him one of the most feared center forwards in the game.

Training and Development for Center Forwards

In this section, we will discuss the training and development required to become a successful center forward.

Physical Training

As a center forward, you need to be physically fit and strong. You should focus on building your strength, speed, and endurance. Here are some physical training exercises that can help you improve your performance:

  • Strength Training: Incorporate exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges to build lower body strength. You should also focus on upper body strength exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups.
  • Speed Training: You should work on improving your sprinting speed. Incorporate exercises such as sprints, shuttle runs, and agility drills to improve your speed and quickness.
  • Endurance Training: As a center forward, you need to be able to maintain your performance throughout the entire game. Incorporate exercises such as running, cycling, and swimming to improve your endurance.

Technical Training

In addition to physical training, you need to work on your technical skills. Here are some technical training exercises that can help you improve your performance:

  • Dribbling: As a center forward, you need to be able to dribble past defenders. Practice dribbling through cones and around defenders to improve your dribbling skills.
  • Shooting: Your ability to score goals is critical to your success as a center forward. Practice shooting from different angles and distances to improve your accuracy and power.
  • Passing: As a center forward, you need to be able to pass the ball accurately to your teammates. Practice passing drills with your teammates to improve your passing skills.

Challenges Faced by Center Forwards

As a center forward, you face several challenges that require skill, strength, and mental toughness. Here are some of the most common challenges that center forwards face:

Marking by Defenders

As a center forward, you are often marked by one or more defenders, making it difficult to receive passes and create scoring opportunities.

In this case, you need to be physically strong to hold off defenders and create space for yourself. You also need to be quick and agile to evade defenders and get into scoring positions.

Pressure to Score

As a center forward, you are expected to score goals. This can create a lot of pressure, especially if you go through a goal-scoring drought.

You need to be mentally tough to handle the pressure and stay focused on your game. You also need to be patient and persistent, knowing that goals will come if you keep working hard.

Of course, it’s not all on you. If your teammates can progress the ball then it is almost out of your hands.

Limited Touches

As a center forward, you may not get as many touches on the ball as other players on the field. This means that you need to make the most of every touch, whether it’s a shot, a pass, or a dribble.

You need to be technically skilled to make the most of your limited touches and create scoring opportunities.

Physical Demands

As a center forward, you may get banged up a bit. Defenders are chasing you down when your back is to them or they come in for a hard slide tackle. You need to have good endurance to run up and down the field, strength to hold off defenders, and agility to make quick turns and evasive moves. You also need to be able to jump high to win headers and score goals from crosses.

Evolution of the Center Forward Role

The center forward position has undergone a significant transformation over the years. The role has evolved from being a physical target man to a more versatile, skillful, and intelligent player.

Here are some of the key changes that have occurred in the center forward role over the years:

The Traditional Target Man

The center forward position was originally designed for a big, strong, and physical player who could hold the ball up, win aerial duels, and bully defenders. The traditional target man was the focal point of the team’s attack, and his primary responsibility was to score goals. Teams would often play long balls to the center forward, who would then lay the ball off to his teammates or take a shot at goal.

The Poacher

As teams became more tactically aware, the role of the center forward began to change. The poacher was a player who would hang around the opposition’s penalty box, waiting for a chance to pounce on loose balls or rebounds. This type of center forward was less involved in the build-up play and would often score goals from close range.

The False Nine

The false nine is a modern interpretation of the center forward role. This player drops deep into midfield, creating space for his teammates to run into. The false nine is a playmaker who can dribble past defenders, create chances for his teammates, and score goals. This type of center forward is more mobile, skillful, and intelligent than his predecessors.

The Complete Forward

The complete forward is a player who can do it all. He is strong, skillful, intelligent, and versatile. The complete forward can hold the ball up, score goals, create chances, and defend from the front. This type of center forward is a rarity, but when a team has one, he can be a game-changer.

Center Forward vs. Striker

When it comes to soccer, the terms “center forward” and “striker” are often used interchangeably. However, there are some subtle differences between the two positions that are worth exploring.


A center forward is a player who is positioned in the center of the attacking line, usually right in front of the opposing team’s goal. Their primary responsibility is to score goals, but they also play a key role in creating scoring opportunities for their teammates.

A striker, on the other hand, is a more general term that refers to any player who is playing in an attacking position for the team. Strikers can be positioned anywhere in the attacking line and may have different responsibilities depending on their specific role within the team.


The main difference between a center forward and a striker is their specific responsibilities on the field. As mentioned, a center forward’s primary job is to score goals. They are typically the most advanced player on the field and are responsible for finishing off attacking moves.

Strikers, on the other hand, may have a wider range of responsibilities. They may be tasked with creating scoring opportunities, holding up play, or even dropping back to help defend with the middys. Strikers are often more versatile players than center forwards and may be able to play in a variety of attacking positions.

Final Thoughts

Center forwards can change the dynamics of a team. Someone who is dedicated to scoring and can get to the goal in a flash can put a lot of pressure on the defense.

A team that has a strong backfield, a midfield that is disciplined and an attacking offensive line can wreak havoc on opponents.

In my experience coaching and watching youth soccer, an elite center forward can really spark energy into a team.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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