The sweeper is always “the last player” in defense, roaming laterally a few meters behind the line of defenders. He must not sway too far toward the sidelines. The sweeper observes the development of plays and closes down gaps left by other defenders. Because sweepers never mark opposing attackers, they are free to move a great deal forward during set plays or corner kicks. Overall, the sweeper should be experienced, perceptive and should be able to handle the ball with confidence. The sweeper position was popularized by German legend Franz Beckenbauer in the 1970’s.
#3. or #5. Stopper / Center fullback
The stopper plays in the center of the defensive line. Some teams may use two stoppers in conjunction. The main task of the stopper is to mark attackers and fight with them for 50/50 balls. This is the most defensively-oriented position in soccer. Stoppers have to remain in the backline at almost all times. Playing in the middle of the defense often means having the ball served in your area from various directions and at variable heights. Therefore, the stopper position requires aggressiveness, strength, good heading ability and courageousness in 50/50 challenges.
#2. or #4. Fullback
The fullbacks are supposed to play on each side of the stopper, covering the area along the sideline. In defense, the fullback is either marking a forward or is covering the flank waiting for incoming opponents. Fullbacks get involved during attacks by staying wide, making overlapping runs and going up the sideline. It is not uncommon for a free fullback to move up the flank and take the position of a winger. To succeed at the job, fullbacks should have speed and good stamina.
#6. or #11. Outside midfielder
The outside midfielder is expected to be active in both defense and attack. In defense, he usually marks opponents on his flank. If there are no opponents around, he may pinch in towards the middle while remaining in line with the ball. In attack, the outside midfielder must remain wide. By staying near the sideline, especially during buildup, he stretches out the game. When he has the ball, the outside midfielder should be able to dribble with it down the flank. Besides being fit and active he should have good 1v1 skills.
#6. or #11. Winger
Wingers are usually found in teams that play with three attackers. The definition of a winger is not quite universal and outside midfielders are often called wingers. Traditionally, wingers are strictly attacking players who stay wide, dribble the ball forward and serve in crosses.
#5. Defensive midfielder
The defensive midfielder is the backbone of the team. He roams laterally from sideline to sideline and pressures the ball. If one of his teammates gets beaten in the middle of the field, the defensive midfielder is expected to step in. In attacks, he should make supporting runs and provide back passing options, especially when the ball is near the sideline. Brazil’s former captain Dungha is a good example of a defensive midfielder. He led his team to the World Cup finals in both 1994 and 1998. Claude Makelele is another more recent example. Both Makelele and Dungha are aggressive tacklers, they know how to shield the ball and are always well positioned.
#8. or #7. Center / Attacking midfielder
Center midfielders are usually the most skillful players on a team. A good center midfielder is always scanning the field for passing options and opportunities for plays. During attacks, he should be involved in the action by making runs towards the ball. On defense, the center midfielder is expected to drop back and pressure the ball. Overall, the position requires skill, stamina as well as good tactical understanding. Center midfielders who are very active in directing attacks are often given the title “playmakers”. Zinedine Zidane of France and Carlos Valderrama of Columbia are great examples.
Unlike the typical forward, the striker doesn’t shift to the sides as much, but stays in front of the opponent’s goal. When outnumbered, the striker should shield and play the ball back. The main ability of the striker is usually his strength and heading. Some of the more popular strikers in the game include Jan Koller, Carsten Jancker, Christian Vieri and Andriy Shevchenko. All of them are powerful, good in the air and it’s nearly impossible to push them off the ball.
#9. or #10. Forward
In addition to scoring, forwards are also expected to run back and support the midfield. This can best be observed in top-level games, where the forwards are often playing with their backs turned to goal. When a team is playing with two forwards, they must both move in conjunction. If the ball is on the left flank for example, they must shift so that one of them is in the center and the other is near the sideline. By keeping the distance between each other constant, forwards can work the ball effectively while pulling apart the defense. Because they usually work under a lot of pressure, forwards need to be fast and should be able to handle the ball quickly.