Understanding the Various Types of Strikers


The role of the striker in soccer is one of the most dynamic and crucial on the field. Strikers are the primary goal scorers, and their versatility and skill set can significantly influence the outcome of a game. However, not all strikers are the same. There are various types of strikers, each with unique attributes and responsibilities.

In this article, we will explore the different types of strikers, their specific roles, and how they contribute to their team’s success. Whether you are a player, coach, or fan, understanding these roles can deepen your appreciation for the game’s tactical nuances.

Roles of Strikers

A soccer playing kicking the ball

A striker’s role in soccer is multifaceted and crucial to a team’s offensive strategy. Here are the key roles and responsibilities of a striker:

  • Goal Scoring: The primary role of a striker is to score goals. They must have a keen eye for goal, excellent finishing skills, and the ability to convert chances into goals, often under pressure.
  • Positioning: A good striker must have excellent positioning skills. They need to anticipate where the ball will be and position themselves to receive it in dangerous areas. This involves reading the game well and staying onside to avoid offside traps.
  • Creating Space: Strikers must create space for themselves and their teammates. This can be achieved through intelligent movement, dragging defenders out of position, and making runs that open up gaps in the opposition’s defense.
  • Hold-Up Play: Strikers, especially target men, often need to hold up the ball to bring others into play. This involves controlling the ball under pressure, shielding it from defenders, and laying it off to oncoming midfielders or wingers.
  • Linking Play: Modern strikers are also expected to link up play. This means dropping deep to receive the ball, combining with midfielders, and helping in the buildup play, not just waiting in the box for the final pass.
  • Pressing and Defending: In many tactical setups, strikers are the first line of defense. They must press opposing defenders and goalkeepers to force errors, disrupt the opposition’s buildup play, and help their team regain possession high up the pitch.
  • Aerial Duels: Strikers, particularly those with good heading ability, are often involved in aerial duels. They need to win headers from crosses, corners, and long balls, either to score directly or to knock the ball down to teammates.
  • Assisting Teammates: While scoring is their main job, strikers also need to create opportunities for others. This involves making smart passes, setting up teammates in better positions, and sometimes playing the role of a decoy to draw defenders away.
  • Taking Penalties and Free Kicks: Strikers often take on the responsibility of taking penalties and sometimes free kicks. They need to be calm and composed under pressure to convert these chances.
  • Adapting to Different Roles: Depending on the tactical demands of the game, strikers may need to adapt to different roles, such as playing as a lone forward, in a partnership, or even as a false nine. Versatility can be a valuable asset for a striker.

Characteristics of a Good Striker

Men playing soccer

Numerous outstanding strikers with diverse, even opposing traits have graced the soccer field. Here are some key characteristics that make a good striker:

  • Ball Control: Strikers typically receive the ball within the box, where they must operate quickly due to limited time. Ideally, a striker should control the ball with direction and then shoot toward the goal in two swift motions.
  • Precision: Teams typically only have a few scoring opportunities in a soccer match. A striker may only have three or four legitimate chances to score, making accuracy essential when taking shots on goal or passing to a teammate in a better position.
  • Positioning: A skilled striker must accurately analyze the game and anticipate where the ball may go. For instance, when a teammate makes a long-range shot, the striker must rush to the goal and be ready to capitalize on the goalkeeper’s rebound.
  • Strength and Balance: Although a striker doesn’t necessarily need to be large, they must be able to handle the physical techniques used by defenders. A proficient striker shouldn’t be deterred from controlling the ball and scoring by shoves, casual shirt grabs, or stomps.

Other qualities such as speed, technique, and heading ability also merit mention. Even without these attributes, a skilled striker can still score many goals, but possessing them is preferable.

Types of Strikers

A soccer player on a game

Strikers come in various forms, each with unique attributes and roles on the field. Here are the different types of strikers commonly seen in soccer:

  • Center Forward (CF): A traditional striker who plays centrally and is often the primary goal-scoring threat. They are typically strong, good in the air, and able to hold up the ball to bring other players into play. Examples include players like Didier Drogba and Robert Lewandowski.
  • Second Striker (SS): Also known as a support striker or withdrawn striker, this player operates just behind the center forward. They link the midfield with the attack, often creating chances and exploiting spaces. Wayne Rooney and Paulo Dybala are classic examples of second strikers.
  • False Nine: A more modern role where the striker drops deep into midfield, creating confusion among defenders and opening spaces for wingers and attacking midfielders to exploit. Lionel Messi popularized this role during his time at Barcelona.
  • Target Man: A physically imposing striker who excels in aerial duels and holding up the ball. They are often used to receiving long balls and knocking them down for teammates. Peter Crouch and Olivier Giroud are well-known target men.
  • Poacher: A striker with a knack for being in the right place at the right time to score goals, often from close range. Poachers have excellent anticipation and finishing skills. Filippo Inzaghi and Javier Hernández are prime examples of poachers.
  • Advanced Forward: A striker who uses their pace and dribbling skills to get behind defenses and score goals. They are often very quick and play on the shoulder of the last defender. Thierry Henry and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are examples of advanced forwards.
  • Deep-Lying Forward: Also known as a playmaker or a false ten, this striker drops deeper than a traditional forward to link play and create opportunities for teammates. Francesco Totti and Roberto Firmino are examples of deep-lying forwards.
  • Support Striker: Similar to a second striker, but this role focuses more on creating chances for the main striker. They often play in the spaces between the midfield and the defense. Players like Dennis Bergkamp and Teddy Sheringham excelled in this role.

Each type of striker brings something different to the team, and their effectiveness often depends on the style of play preferred by the coach and the strengths of their teammates.


Understanding the various types of strikers and their roles is essential for appreciating soccer. Each type of striker brings unique skills and attributes to the team, contributing to different aspects of the game. Whether it’s scoring goals, creating opportunities, or pressing the opposition, strikers are vital to a team’s success. By recognizing and utilizing the strengths of each type of striker, coaches and players can enhance their tactical approach and improve their chances of victory on the field.

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