Association football, commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world’s most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by using any part of the body besides the arms and hands to get the football into the opposing goal. The goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms while it is in play and then only in their penalty area. Outfield players mostly use their feet to strike or pass the ball, but may use their head or torso to strike the ball instead. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time and/or a penalty shootout depending on the format of the competition. The Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by The Football Association in 1863. Association football is governed internationally by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA; French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association) which organises a World Cup every four years. Association football is played in accordance with a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game. The game is played using a spherical ball (of 71 cm (28 in) circumference in FIFA play), known as the football (or soccer ball). Two teams of eleven players each compete to get the ball into the other team’s goal (between the posts and under the bar), thereby scoring a goal. The team that has scored more goals at the end of the game is the winner; if both teams have scored an equal number of goals then the game is a draw. Each team is led by a captain who has only one official responsibility as mandated by the Laws of the Game: to be involved in the coin toss prior to kick-off or penalty kicks. The primary law is that players other than goalkeepers may not deliberately handle the ball with their hands or arms during play, though they do use their hands during a throw-in restart. Although players usually use their feet to move the ball around, they may use any part of their body (notably, “heading” with the forehead) other than their hands or arms. Within normal play, all players are free to play the ball in any direction and move throughout the pitch, though the ball cannot be received in an offside position. In typical game play, players attempt to create goal-scoring opportunities through individual control of the ball, such as by dribbling, passing the ball to a team-mate, and by taking shots at the goal, which is guarded by the opposing goalkeeper. Opposing players may try to regain control of the ball by intercepting a pass or through tackling the opponent in possession of the ball; however, physical contact between opponents is restricted. Football is generally a free-flowing game, with play stopping only when the ball has left the field of play or when play is stopped by the referee for an infringement of the rules. After a stoppage, play recommences with a specified restart.[34] At a professional level, most matches produce only a few goals. For example, the 2005–06 season of the English Premier League produced an average of 2.48 goals per match. The Laws of the Game do not specify any player positions other than goalkeeper,[36] but a number of specialised roles have evolved. Broadly, these include three main categories: strikers, or forwards, whose main task is to score goals; defenders, who specialise in preventing their opponents from scoring; and midfielders, who dispossess the opposition and keep possession of the ball in order to pass it to the forwards on their team. Players in these positions are referred to as outfield players, in order to distinguish them from the goalkeeper. These positions are further subdivided according to the area of the field in which the player spends most time. For example, there are central defenders, and left and right midfielders. The ten outfield players may be arranged in any combination. The number of players in each position determines the style of the team’s play; more forwards and fewer defenders creates a more aggressive and offensive-minded game, while the reverse creates a slower, more defensive style of play. While players typically spend most of the game in a specific position, there are few restrictions on player movement, and players can switch positions at any time. The layout of a team’s players is known as a formation. Defining the team’s formation and tactics is usually the prerogative of the team’s manager. Positions on the Soccer Field There are 11 positions on the soccer field, but they always fall into four broad categories. Even in smaller games, the number of players in each category may change, but by and large, the positions do not. The Goalkeeper The goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use his hands and that can only occur within the confines of the penalty area. There are never more that two goalkeepers on the field at any time — one on each team. The goalkeeper’s uniform is different from the rest of his team’s to make it obvious which player may use his hands. The jersey, often with long sleeves, is colored to clash with the others. And since the 1970s, goalkeepers have worn gloves to both protect their hands and enhance their grip on the ball. Some of the best goalkeepers in the world are Gianluigi Buffon of Italy and Iker Casillas of Spain. The Defenders A defender’s primary duty is to win back the ball from the opposition and prevent them from scoring. Teams play with anywhere from three to five at the back and each member of the defense tends to have a different, yet equally important duty. The defenders stationed in the center of the back line (known as central defenders or center backs) tend to be some of the taller and stronger members of the team since they so frequently have to win the ball in the air. They go forward very little, except on set pieces, and hold a position of great responsibility. The defenders on the flanks (known as wingbacks in five-player defenses, or fullbacks) are usually smaller, quicker, and better on the ball. Their job is to shut down attacks coming down the sides, but they are also frequently a key component of their side’s offense. Pushing up the sidelines, they are able to support the midfielders and push deep into opposition territory to deliver crosses. Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, Chelsea’s John Terry and Real Madrid’s Fabio Cannavaro are some of the world’s finest defenders. The Midfielders The midfield is one of the most demanding places to play on the soccer pitch. Midfielders are usually the fittest members of a team, since they do the most running. They share the responsibilities of the defenders and the forwards since they must both win the ball back and create opportunities up front. The various midfielders’ roles depend heavily on a team’s particular system. Those on the flank may be asked to primarily deliver crosses or cut into the middle with different degrees of defensive accountability. Those in the center, meanwhile, may be asked to mainly hold the ball and win it back (such as a “holding midfielder” or an “anchor”) or venture forward and feed balls to the attackers. The best midfielders are versatile enough to offer a team both. In a full game, teams play with anywhere from three to five midfielders, arranging them in different shapes. Some will have the five line up straight across the field, while others will have the middle two or three set up one behind the other in what is known as a “diamond” formation. Currently, a few of the best midfielders in the game are Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Real Madrid’s Kaka. The Forwards The forwards may have the most straightforward job description on the field: score goals. Forwards (also known as attackers or strikers) come in all shapes and sizes and, accordingly, present different threats. A taller striker could be more dangerous in the air, while a smaller, quicker player may be more effective with the ball at his feet. Teams play with anywhere from one to three strikers (sometimes four if times get desperate) and try to blend different styles. The objective is for the forwards to have a good understanding of each other’s game to better set up opportunities for each other. Frequently, one forward will play a little deeper than the other to collect the ball sooner and open up a defense. Those players, who tend to be the most creative on the team, are traditionally called a “Number 10,” in reference to the jersey number they usually wear. Hybrid Positions There are two positions that sometimes crop up in soccer which are never played by more than one person at a time. They are sweeper and “libero,” which is sometimes called a “midfield sweeper.” A regular sweeper plays just behind the central defenders and acts as a last line with a lot of freedom to cover where danger presents itself. A midfield sweeper usually plays just in front of the defense and helps to slow down opposing attacks by acting as one extra barrier. Some of the deadliest strikers in soccer are Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, and Inter Milan’s Samuel Eto’o.



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