What is a center forward in soccer?
The center forward in soccer is a position on the field where the forward plays at the top of the formation along with the striker. This can change due to the formation, but the center forward is generally at the top center of each formation.
Center Forward Roles and Responsibilities
A center forward is a player who, like a striker, will try to push play forward within the attacking half and look to score. However, unlike a striker, they are not the focal attacking point. Instead, they are often playing with multiple attacking players (such as in a 4-3-3 formation) and help support other players in scoring on the opposing team’s goal.
Though they often fill a supportive role to strikers, center forwards can push forward and make the goal in any situation when an assist is not possible. Due to their position at the front center of most formations, this means they are in a great vantage point for the goal if the goalkeeper gets distracted to one side or the other.
Center Forward Positioning
As a false nine, the center forward will be in the same position as a striker would, only to drop back towards midfield to open space for wingers, attacking midfielders, or fullbacks to get in behind the backline. These center forwards can shoot, but are also excellent passers. Robert Lewandowski is the classic example of a true center forward, but more recently, Olivier Giroud performed this role for France in their 2018 FIFA World Cup win.
Center Forward Strategies
Strategies for using a center forward depend heavily on the formation in which they are positioned. For example, a center forward in a 4-4-1-1 formation will almost solely provide support for the striker farther up the field and try to make assists when they can. In other formations where there are multiple forwards at the same level, there will be more chance of a center forward attempting a goal.
Center Forward Jersey Numbers
Center forwards have historically worn the number nine. While this is a tradition, it is not the case for many players during their club season. However, players typically wear the number associated with their position in international play.
Notable Center Forwards
- Ferenc Puskas
- Gerd Muller
- Lionel Messi