Striker vs Center Forward Position in Football (They’re NOT The Same)

Striker vs Center Forward

Let’s be honest. We all love watching football because of the goals being scored.

And who carries the responsibilities of scoring these goals on their shoulder?

You guessed it – The strikers and center forwards.

Yes, these are not the same roles, though their duties intertwine.

While both are key players in a team’s attack, they possess distinct characteristics and roles on the pitch.

In this article, we’ll delve into what differentiates a striker vs center forward in football, shedding light on the nuances that set them apart. 

The Striker: Goal-Scoring Marksmen

Strikers are the sharpshooters, the goal-getters, and the ones who strike fear into opposing defenders.

Their primary role is to score goals, and they are often the top goal-scorers in a team.

Strikers are typically positioned further up the field and asked to roam inside the penalty area closer to the opponent’s goal as they aim to exploit opportunities and finish off attacking plays. 

Key Characteristics of a Striker

Clinical Finishing

Strikers are known for their ability to put the ball into the back of the net with precision. They have the knack for converting chances into goals, making them the go-to players when a goal is needed.


Effective strikers display intelligent movement off the ball. They constantly position themselves to receive passes, make runs behind the opposition’s defense, and find space to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Speed and Agility

Many strikers possess quick acceleration and agility, which allows them to evade defenders and break away for goal-scoring opportunities.


Strikers may have different playing styles, some being poachers who excel at close-range finishing, while others may have the ability to score from a distance and contribute to build-up play.

Modern Examples of Strikers

Some of the Great strikers of this Generation are Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski, and more recently Erling Haaland.  

The Center Forward: Playmaking Targetmen

Center forwards, sometimes called target men, are a crucial link between the midfield and the attacking line.

They’re not just goal-scorers but also playmakers who are often involved in creating scoring opportunities for their teammates.

Center forwards are typically positioned in the central area of the attack much closer to the midfield. They’re expected to hold up the ball, bring others into play, and be a focal point of the team’s offensive strategies.

A Center Forward might drop deep to receive the ball in between the line and then distribute the ball out wide to the quick wingers to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Key Characteristics of a Center Forward

Hold-up Play

Center forwards are adept at holding the ball under pressure, allowing their teammates to get into position. This skill is especially important in playing long balls and crosses into the box.


They tend to be strong and physically imposing, capable of outmuscling defenders and winning aerial duels, making them valuable in set pieces and crosses.

Link-Up Play

Center forwards often act as a pivot, linking the midfield and attack. They may provide assists and create goal-scoring opportunities for their teammates with clever passes.

Aerial Ability

Many center forwards excel in aerial duels, making them effective targets for crosses and set pieces. Their heading ability can lead to goals or assists.

Modern Examples of Center Forwards

Some of the finest Center Forwards of this generation are Ronaldo Nazario, Roberto Firmino, and Karim Benzema, among others.

Can a Striker and Center Forward Co-exist in the Team? 

Yes. In fact, a partnership of a center forward and striker can be very effective for a team, with the Center forward holding up his defender and providing attacking outlets to the striker who converts them into goals. 

One of the best examples of this is Real Madrid’s 2016/17 Champions League winning team where Zinedine Zidane played Cristiano Ronaldo as a striker and Karim Benzema played as a second fiddle to Ronaldo.

Benzema attracted defenders by dropping deep to receive the ball from the midfield creating space in behind for Cristiano Ronaldo to exploit and score goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo did just that by scoring 42 Goals in all competitions which helped him win his 5th Ballon d’Or.

Striker vs Center Forward: The Key Differences

Still confused between these two roles? Let’s break it down one more time:

Strikers: Their #1 focus is getting on the scoresheet. They rely on deadly finishing, intelligent movement, and pace to get in behind defenses.

Center Forwards: These players link the play between midfield and attack. Their hold-up play, physicality, and playmaking ability create chances for teammates, even if they chip in with goals themselves.

While every squad needs a reliable goal-scorer, having that center forward linking the play can take your attack to new heights.

FAQs: Center Forward vs Striker

What is the Difference Between a Center Forward and Striker?

While both are crucial in attack, main difference between striker and center forward lies in their roles.

Strikers focus on goal-scoring with precision and movement, while center forwards act as playmakers, linking midfield and attack with hold-up play and assists.

Is Center Forward a Striker?

Yes, a center forward is a type of striker. However, not all strikers are center forwards.

Strikers encompass various styles, and a center forward is specifically positioned centrally, often with a stronger emphasis on link-up play.

Is Haaland a Center Forward or Striker?

Erling Haaland is often referred to as a striker. His playing style incorporates key characteristics of both positions, showcasing clinical finishing like a striker and involvement in link-up play like a center forward.


At the end of the day, strikers and center forwards are both crucial for a team’s attacking success.

Strikers keep the scoreboard ticking with their lethal finishing and movement. But the creativity and playmaking ability of center forwards is what sets up so many of those goals.

The best attacks have both of these roles combined, creating a dynamic, unpredictable force that no defense can handle!

So whether you model your game after a poaching striker or a hard-working center forward, understanding each position’s unique responsibilities is key.

Mastering your role – and working in tandem with your attacking partners – is what separates good players from great ones.

What do you think?

Written by TackleFromBehind

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