Understanding Positions – Part 2 – Forwards

Everyone´s favorite position: Forward! No defending, scoring goals, and being the hero of your team; sounds like the perfect position. Forwards tend to be the best paid professionals, think Messi and Ronaldo, and there is a reason for it: if you don´t score, you don´t do your job. But whereas in theory, this position seems simple, modern soccer has much more expectations than “get the ball, shoot, score.”

Back in the days, it really was that simple: score as many goals as you can, that’s it! Today, forwards are expected to engage much more in plays, from pressing the defense, to dropping back in the midfield to create numerical advantages – forwards need to work!

Formation Matters

But let´s start at the beginning. Coaches have a variety of options for forwards when choosing their formation. The number of forwards can range anywhere from 1-3, and each formation brings different tasks to the forwards. For simplicity reasons, we will focus on 1 and 2 forwards, as with 3 forwards, 2 of them turn into wingers´ further explained here

Playing with 1 or 2 forward, the traditional “9(s)”, like Brazil´s Ronaldo in the late 90´s and early 2000´s, is a center forward, which, as the name implies, is in the middle of the opponent´s 1/3 of the field. When in possession, he/she is the target for midfielders to get the ball to. From there, he/she either holds the ball until the midfield has followed to support the attack, or goes straight to goal, trying to score.

What does it need to be a Forward

Since the forward can be the deciding factor between winning or losing, these players usually have a strong personality, and are leaders on the field. In addition to mental strength, forwards need to be physically strong, as they are fighting for the ball, trying to push defenders off.

Also important is a strong shot, combined with the ability to place the ball. Forwards will shoot from various distances, so their repertoire should range from skillful 1v1 against the goalkeeper to rockets from 20 yards out.

Last, but not least, forwards need to master the ball. Especially in the penalty area, space tends to be limited. Every touch should be controlled, to minimize errors receiving the ball, turn with the ball, and play give-and-goes in small spaces. Interested in achieving Ball Mastery? Find out more here


Being a forward is more than just scoring goals. It´s about being a presence on the field, the first line of defense, and the deciding factor in a game. A top forward should have the following qualities:

  • Confident and mentally strong
  • Physically strong to defend the ball
  • Master on the ball
  • Strong, precise shot

But remember, a forward is only as good as the midfielders feeding him the balls, and the defenders keeping the back together.

Now it is your turn: In your opinion, which physical, technical and cognitive skills/traits are most important for forwards ?