Full Back Soccer Position Explained

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How do you play and dominate the full back soccer position? In the beautiful game, the full back position is a very important defensive position that also serves as an attacking threat. The full backs are part of the back line and are made up of the left backs and right backs.

In the modern game, the full-back position is a demanding one, requiring a delicate balance of defensive and attacking skills as well as high-level stamina and speed required for constant runs up and down the sidelines of the field.

In this blog, I will cover everything you need to know about the full back soccer position.

Full back soccer

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The Modern Role of the Fullback Position

The main role of the full backs is to provide defensive cover in the width of the field by playing on either side of the center backs and in front of the goalkeeper. The full backs are also usually always in charge of guarding the opposing wingers, who are typically some of the fastest players on the field.

Although the full backs are part of the defensive line, they also have a very important attacking role. With the rise of attacking fullbacks and wing backs, the position has transformed into a potent offensive weapon, capable of launching unpredictable attacks and creating goal-scoring opportunities through overlapping runs and accurate crosses.

In addition, the modern fullback is expected to possess a well-rounded skill set from executing timely sliding tackles in the defensive third to delivering accurate passes and crosses in the final third. Their ability to read the play, anticipate opposition movements, and provide crucial support to the defense, midfield, and attack makes them an invaluable asset on the soccer field.

Also, it is important to note that many coaches prefer traditional full backs, which means players are more dominant footed on the side they play on. For example, left backs should be more left footed and right backs should be more right footed, although that is not always the case. If a right footed player is playing at the left back position or a left footed player is playing at the right back position they are referred to as inverted full backs.

Full back soccer Image by Jeffrey F Lin

Key Responsibilities of Modern Full Backs

The modern full back is a very demanding position that has a lot of key responsibilities, let’s go over some of the main ones.

Defense:

  • Mark wingers and attackers effectively
  • Executing well-timed tackles and interceptions
  • Clear the ball out of danger when necessary

Attack:

  • Make constant overlapping and underlapping runs to provide width.
  • Deliver crosses, cut-backs, and through balls into the opposition’s penalty box.
  • Engage in one-on-one situations to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Technical skills:

  • Passing ability to contribute to the team’s buildup play.
  • Dribbling to navigate through tight defensive lines.
  • Switching the play to exploit spaces on the field.

Act as an additional passing option for the team:

  • Providing support during buildup play from the back.
  • Offering passing options during counter-attacks.

Contribute to the team’s pressing tactics by:

  • Pressing high up the pitch to disrupt the opposition’s buildup play.
  • Chasing down the ball after an opposition switch of play.
  • Exhibiting exceptional fitness levels and work rate.

Full back soccerKey Attributes of Elite Fullbacks

Now that you are familiar with some of the key responsibilities of a full back, let’s discuss the key attributes of elite full backs.

Defensive Skills:

The primary role of the fullbacks is to provide defensive cover for the back line and to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals by making tackles, intercepting passes, and blocking shots and crosses. Most of the time the full back will be marking the opposing team’s winger although through the course of the game they will have to mark other players as well.

Good communication is part of knowing how to defend effectively because in order to organize the defensive shape and respond to opposition movements efficiently, you need to be talking with the rest of the defensive line. This means that the two full backs have to communicate effectively with their two center backs or half backs.

One other important defensive skill for full backs to have is heading ability. A full back needs to be able to win headers and clear dangerous crosses away from the goal.

Speed and Stamina:

Full backs are constantly running up and down the field and to be able to do that at a high level for 90 minutes modern full backs need enough speed and stamina. Speed is needed to be able to catch up with the wingers, who are usually some of the fastest players on the field, as well as other attacking players, while stamina is needed to make sure the player can make those continuous runs through the course of the game.

Positioning:

Full-backs need to maintain a defensive line and be aware of the overall defensive structure of their team to minimize gaps and empty spaces. This means they have to know how to support their center-backs during defensive phases, as well as know where to be during the other phases of the game.

Offensive Contributions:

Although full backs are considered mainly defensive players, full backs also have a very important role in the attack. Full backs help connect play between the defensive and midfield lines, offering passing options to central midfielders and wide midfielders. Full backs are also actively involved in maintaining possession of the ball by offering short passing options and constantly moving the ball around.

Not only can they take advantage of taking fast throw-ins and catching the opposing team off guard, but they are also responsible for creating chances for strikers and attacking midfielders. Full backs can also score goals and help change the entire outcome of the game.

Awareness of the Game Situation:

Good full backs don’t need to know how to react, but they need to know how to anticipate the flow of the game, understanding when to stay back defensively and when to join the attack. This also involves making quick and effective decisions under pressure, such as whether to clear the ball, pass, or dribble.

There is a huge difference between reacting and anticipating and as a full back it is crucial to anticipate the plays.

Versatility:

Some full backs are capable of playing on either the left or right flank, adding versatility to the team. If you are a full back that can use both feet efficiently you increase your chances of a coach choosing you to play on either side of the field, instead of if you are only one foot dominant.

Full back soccer Image by Source

Best Full backs to Analyze and Learn From

Now that you are aware of the key responsibilities and attributes of elite full backs, here is a list of the best full backs to analyze and learn from.

  • Joao Cancelo
  • Alphonso Davies
  • Dani Alves
  • Marcelo
  • Roberto Carlos

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

Are full backs and center backs the same thing?

No, full backs and centre backs are two different positions in soccer. Full backs primarily operate on the left and right sides of the defensive line, focusing on marking opposing wingers and providing defensive cover for the wide areas.

On the other hand, as the name implies, center backs, or a central defender, plays in the center of the back line and they focus on marking opposing strikers and maintaining defensive solidity in the middle of the pitch.

What is the difference between full backs and wing backs?

The main difference between full backs and wing backs lies in their roles within the team’s tactical setup. Full backs typically operate in a more traditional defensive role, providing cover for the wide areas while occasionally supporting the team’s attacking play.

On the other hand, wing backs are more attacking-minded players who operate in advanced positions, providing width in attack and contributing significantly to the team’s offensive threat while still fulfilling defensive duties.

What are wide defenders in soccer called?

Wide defenders in soccer are called full backs, often wing backs, which share similar roles and responsibilities although they differ slightly. The central defenders are known as center backs or center halves. The last line of defense, the backline, is usually made up of 3-5 defenders and the number of full backs and center backs differs with every formation and tactics used.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the full back soccer position requires a delicate balance between defensive and offensive skills. With key responsibilities ranging from defensive duties to contributing to the team’s attacking threat, mastering the full back position requires a diverse skill set and a high level of tactical awareness.

By studying the attributes and performances of elite full backs like Joao Cancelo, Alphonso Davies, Dani Alves, Marcelo, and Roberto Carlos, aspiring players can gain valuable tips and insights as to how to get better as a soccer player.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about the basics of the full back soccer position.

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