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4 min read

It goes without saying that the forwards or strikers are the most exciting players to observe in a football match.

Strictly speaking, the primary task of all forwards is to score goals. But the technical evolution of the game has led to further division of the roles in the forward position. 

Basically, both the center forward and striker are attacking players looking for goal-scoring opportunities. But there are subtle differences in their roles. 

This may not be visible during a game on a backyard football field.  Only when you watch league matches involving top teams like Manchester United or Arsenal, does it become evident.

Also, the overlapping of these two roles can happen during a match. This can make it difficult to differentiate between the exact functions of a striker and a center forward.

So, let’s look inside forwards to understand the exact difference between these two football positions.

What Is a Striker in Football?

The word striker brings to mind the images of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Karim Benzema. We have seen strikers changing the course of a FIFA World Cup match in seconds.

The main purpose of a striker is to lead a team’s efforts toward placing the ball at the back of the net. Strikers take up advanced attacking positions near the penalty box of the opponent. Their primary task is to receive passes from their teammates and score.

However, modern strikers have a wider area of play than the previous area to avoid the defenders and offside traps. Staying within the penalty box makes them the target man for the defenders.

So, the best strikers also shoot from a distance to beat the goalkeeper.

What Is a Center Forward in Football?

A center forward operates slightly below the opponent’s penalty area and has a closer relationship with the midfielders. 

While they can score a goal, they are more of a playmaker, covering a wider area and connecting with an attacking midfielder. However, unlike fullbacks, they don’t necessarily operate adjacent to the touchlines.

Their aim is to set up the strikers with the right ball and create the best chances for goalscoring. Beyond that, they can also perform other functions as instructed by the coach.

Similarities Between Center Forwards vs Striker

There are players who can play and excel in both positions. For example, even though Kylian Mbappe isn’t a pure striker, he has a terrific goal-scoring record.

Here are a few similarities between these two types of forwards.

  • Both players have a similar set of skills like ball control, dribbling, and shooting.
  • Both positions should have the ability to make off-the-ball movements and find gaps within the opposing players.
  • To perform well, strikers and center forwards need to have an aggressive streak.

Differences Between Center Forward vs Striker

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some distinct differences between them.

  • While the striker is the prime scorer for the team, the center forward creates scoring opportunities.
  • A striker prefers to stay near the opponent’s penalty box, but the position of a center forward is not so specific.
  • A center forward focuses more on passing between defenders. Strikers tend to find gaps between defenders to collect passes while making the best use of their dribbling ability.
  • While a striker needs to be super quick with excellent dribbling skills, a center forward has to be physically strong with more stamina.

Roles of Center Forward in Football

Basically, the central forward plays in a central position, controlling the attacking moves of the team. They can act as the focal point for developing attacking moves, and help in building up play. In addition, center forwards also take up defensive duties and play long balls across the entire midfield area.

At times, top teams in the Premier League like Arsenal or Manchester City have played without strikers. They use an extra midfielder and a winger to create scoring opportunities for the center forwards.

Roles of Striker in Football

The main purpose of a striker is to make the ball cross the opponent’s goal line. Their hunting ground is mostly limited to the box area of the opposing team.

They are the best players with razor-sharp scoring ability and lightning-quick reflexes.

Most modern teams do not use a second striker and use the center forward and wing-backs to supply the ball to the lone striker. 


Who are some famous center forwards in football?

At present, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid, Robert Lewandowski of FC Barcelona, and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool are among the top center forwards in the world. 

Is the center the hardest position in football?

The position of a center forward is one of the hardest in football since it is physically and mentally demanding. While other youth football positions like midfielders and center-backs play vital roles, it is the position of the center-forward that the team looks at for winning matches.

What qualities should a center forward have?

A center forward needs to have excellent endurance and situational awareness. Other necessary skills include the ability for headers, passing, tackling, and long-range shooting.

Final Thoughts

For the viewers to enjoy the game, understanding the difference between the two positions and their roles is important

One of the fundamentals of football is that young football players in all positions should know their exact roles. This will allow strikers and center forwards to interact effectively and wreak havoc with combined forward plays. 

For football players trying to improve their skills in a forward position, dedicated practice is the key. This is where anOpen Goaaal Backyard Football Goal can be an effective practice tool to get the best out of each training session.

Just try it out and feel the difference in your game.