Understanding Soccer and Its Fundamentals

I knew very little about soccer, as a kid.  But for a kid like me who grew up in a neighborhood that was more into basketball; I always had a burning curiosity about other sports and soccer, and wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  As far as I remember my younger-self seeing, soccer was just a bunch of people running on perfectly trimmed grass, and kicking around a ball.

Seeing The World Cup for the first time just further ignited my curiosity of the game. Aside from the popular personalities in the game, what’s interesting about it is that it’s like one big chessboard.  Knowing who to place where, and having countless strategies both offensive and defensive are keys to succeeding in the game.

Soccer can be very confusing especially to people like me who are in the early stages of learning and appreciating the game. It may take a while to figure out what defenders, midfielders, forwards, and goalkeepers do on the field. So for those who are new to the sport, Here’ are a few things to help you understand the game better:

The players

In total, the team has 11 players on the field. They have 1 goalkeeper and 10 field players. The goalkeeper is the only member allowed to use his hands. However, he’s restricted to an 18 yard rectangular area on each side of the goal. His main role is to block the ball of the opponent from reaching the goal. Other members include; defenders who prevent the main player of the opponent from scoring, midfielders whose focus are on defense and attack. Usually, midfielders or “wingers” (as they are fondly called) require good dribbling, passing, and running ability.  Lastly, we have the forwards or strikers whose job is to score goals for the team.

It is important that a team has a good set of players. However, as mentioned earlier, no matter how good they are it still won’t come as a success without a good strategy. Game formation plays a major role in determining the team strategy. Defenders are listed first, midfielders in the middle, and then strikers take front.  Below are some of the most popular formations used on the game.

The classic 4-4-2

One of the most commonly used formations in the game is the classic 4-4-2. It can either be an offensive or defensive tactic against an opponent. This formation bottles up the opposition in the midfield before they can get to the goal. It is an organized structure of defenders and midfielders which promises a good attack through the middle or on the wings. Also, there are 2 strikers that pose a threat to the opponent.  The disadvantage of this formation is that it may result to a crowded midfield. It may be easier to maintain possession of the ball but harder to do anything with it. Some midfielders might be set to low defense work rate.

The popular 3-5-2

This formation gives more offense because of the presence of five midfielders.   But bear in mind that the three in the back should have an equal and/or matching pace with the five.  Midfielders should be able to communicate and play defense well and not get caught up field.  Failure to do so could spell a quick and easy goal for the offense.

The 4-4-1-1

This formation is a simple variation of the 4-4-2. The second forward is situated behind the main striker but ahead of the midfielders. The advantage of this formation is that the second forward has more options including bearing down a goal and freedom to operate. Aside from himself, he can also create goal opportunities for the other members of the team. He can also arrive late in the box to join an attack. Since this is a variation of the 4-4-2, its disadvantage is that, the midfielders may be set to low work rate and not defend.

The 4-5-1

Often seen on the European games is the 4-5-1 formation. This provides a good and solid base because of the presence of five midfielders. Although effective in keeping possession of the ball, this formation limits the offense of the team. Unless provided with a strong front man, this formation produces a few goal scoring chances.

The 3-4-3

If you are looking for an attack, the 3-4-3 is a good option. Although this requires very good players, this formation is good for going for goals. With three forwards, this increases the chances of creating opportunities for a goal. It is important that the players watch out for big spaces at the back where they could be exploited and good opponents may drop the ball.

There are a lot of points to consider in making a formation produce a successful result. Careful planning and analysis that includes understanding the opponent, the players and even the venue should be considered. Formations should not be used just based on whether it worked the game before or not. At the end of the day, the winner will always be the one who played harder and smarter than the rest.

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