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What is the Striker in Soccer? Strikers Vs. Center Forwards Explained

Are you a fan of the beautiful game, wondering what is the striker in soccer? Well, you've come to the right place!
a soccer player striking a ball

In soccer, the term “striker” refers to a player whose primary role is to score goals for their team. Strikers are usually positioned near the opponent’s goal. Here they attempt to create scoring opportunities.

They are often the main focus of the team’s attacking aspect. Qualities such as speed, agility, finishing ability, and tactical awareness are key for strikers. They are crucial figures in a team’s offensive strategy and are often among the top goal-scorers in a league or tournament. Which is why I never play striker in eleven-a-side soccer!

When was the Term ‘Striker’ First Used?

Ah, the origins of the term “striker”. According to an article from The Guardian, the term was first used in 1899 to describe a player who was especially skilled at shooting. Picture this: a rugged, muddy pitch, and a striker poised to unleash thunderous shots at the opponent’s goal. That’s the stuff of legends!

The term “striker” has since become synonymous with goal-scoring prowess. Encapsulating the essence of what it means to be a lethal forward on the soccer pitch. It’s a title that carries with it a sense of prestige and reverence. Reserved for those who have the uncanny ability to find the back of the net with unerring accuracy.

What is a Center Forward in Soccer?

Before we dive deeper into the world of strikers, let’s clear up a common misconception. You might have heard of the “center forward” position. So, what’s the deal with that? Well, think of the center forward as the predecessor to the modern-day striker. These players usually operated in a central attacking position. Leading the line and orchestrating goal-scoring opportunities. They laid the foundation for the flamboyant strikers we admire (or loathe) today.

In the early days of soccer, center forwards were often tasked with spearheading their team’s attack. They used their physicality and aerial prowess to dominate opposition defenders. Yet, as the game evolved and tactics became more nuanced, the role of the center forward gave way to the more dynamic and versatile modern-day striker.

The Key Traits Of A Striker In Soccer

Now, let’s get down to the facts: what makes a striker a great striker? Here’s what sets them apart from the rest:

1. Clinical Finishing

A top-notch striker possesses the uncanny ability to find the back of the net with pinpoint accuracy. Whether it’s a delicate chip over the keeper or a thunderous strike from 25 yards out, these players make scoring look effortless.

2. Sharp Instincts

Ever wondered how strikers always seem to be in the right place at the right time? It’s all about lightning-fast instincts. They have an innate sense of anticipation, sniffing out goal-scoring opportunities before they even arise.

3. Pace and Agility

Speed kills, especially in the world of strikers. These players boast lightning-fast acceleration and agility, leaving defenders in their dust as they dart toward goal.

4. Physical Presence

Don’t let their finesse fool you; strikers are often built like tanks. Think Erling Haaland. They use their strength and physicality to hold off defenders and create space for themselves in the box.

5. Mental Toughness

Scoring goals can be a roller coaster of emotions, but top strikers have nerves of steel. Whether they’re facing a penalty in the dying minutes of a match or enduring a goal drought, they maintain their composure and focus on the task at hand.

The Best Strikers Of All Time

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a moment to pay homage to some of the greatest strikers to ever grace the pitch:

1. Pelé

The name alone is enough to send shivers down the spine of any defender. Pelé’s combination of skill, flair, and goal-scoring prowess made him a true icon of the game.

2. Diego Maradona

While he may be best remembered for his infamous “Hand of God” goal, Maradona was also a prolific striker who could single-handedly change the course of a match with his mesmerizing dribbling and deadly finishing.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying CR7’s status as one of the greatest strikers of all time. His incredible goal-scoring record and unmatched athleticism have cemented his place in soccer folklore.

4. Lionel Messi

Arguably the greatest player of his generation (CR7 fans might disagree), Messi’s unrivaled dribbling skills and telepathic understanding of the game have made him a nightmare for defenders. Oh, and did I mention he’s not too shabby at finding the back of the net either?

Similarities and Differences Between Strikers and Center Forwards

At this point, you might be wondering: what sets strikers apart from their center-forward predecessors? Let’s break it down:


  • Both strikers and center forwards operate in advanced attacking positions. Leading the line and spearheading their team’s offensive efforts.
  • They have excellent goal-scoring instincts and are adept at capitalizing on scoring opportunities inside the box.
  • Both roles need a combination of skill, athleticism, and mental toughness to thrive at the highest level.


  • While center forwards traditionally focused on holding up play and linking up with midfielders, modern-day strikers are more dynamic and versatile, capable of dropping deep to create chances or running in behind the defense.
  • Strikers are often expected to contribute defensively as well, pressing opponents high up the pitch and tracking back to help out in midfield when needed.

What Skills Make a Great Striker?

Ah, the million-dollar question! So, what does it take to reach the pinnacle of striker greatness? Here are a few skills that can elevate a striker from good to legendary:

  • Accuracy: An obvious one, but necessary. A great striker knows how to pick their spot and place the ball exactly where they want it, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
  • Awareness: Whether it’s scanning the pitch for passing options or keeping an eye on the opposing defense, awareness is key for a striker to expect and exploit gaps in the opposition’s back line.
  • Dribbling: While goal-scoring is their primary aim, strikers with exceptional dribbling skills can wreak havoc on defenses by taking on defenders and creating scoring opportunities out of nothing.
  • Teamwork: Contrary to popular belief, strikers aren’t lone wolves. Great strikers know how to work in tandem with their teammates, whether it’s playing a perfectly timed through ball or setting up a goal for a fellow forward.

What Else is There To Know?

So there you have it, folks! A comprehensive guide to the enigmatic world of strikers in soccer. From their humble beginnings to their awe-inspiring feats on the pitch, strikers truly are the heartbeat of the beautiful game. So the next time you wonder what is the striker in soccer and see a striker celebrating a goal with arms outstretched, basking in the adulation of the crowd, just remember the years of hard work and dedication that went into making that moment possible.

If you want to learn about a soccer team’s number, here’s a guide to how many players are on a soccer field. Or budding strikers who want to improve their skills: here’s how to correctly strike a soccer ball.


What is the difference between a winger and a striker?

Wingers usually operate on the sides of the field, using speed and dribbling skills to provide crosses and create scoring opportunities. Strikers are positioned centrally and focus on scoring goals, making runs into the penalty area, and converting chances. While both contribute to the attack, wingers provide width and service, while strikers are the primary goal scorers.

Has Messi ever been a winger?

Yes, Lionel Messi has occasionally played as a winger throughout his career, particularly earlier in his professional tenure. However, he is most renowned for his role as a forward or attacking midfielder, where he has displayed exceptional goal-scoring and playmaking abilities. While deployed on the wing, Messi often cut inside to influence the game centrally, showcasing his versatility and tactical intelligence.

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a soccer player striking a ball
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