There is more to being a forward in the game of soccer than just being an attacker or wanting to shoot and score. All forwards in soccer have several unique qualities that separate them from the other positions on the field.
1) Instinct in front of the net: true forwards will have a knack for finding the back of the net. They will be calm when that last touch is needed to score a goal. Forwards may or may not have all the skill sets that other players and positions on the team have but they will have that finishing instinct. When other players are put in this position they will have the tendency to get excited anything but calm in those last moments before scoring. True forwards will have that finishing instinct and then will celebrate their goal.
2) Goal poacher: being a goal poacher is another part of the forwards repertoire. This is more about being a smart player, knowing how to read the play and being in the right place at the right time. The majority of these types of goals are one or two touches off of rebounds and close to the net. All of these goals will be from inside the 18 yard box and many around the six yard box. Filippo Insaghi of AC Milan is a classic example of a goal poacher. His scoring records speaks for itself.
3) Not afraid to fail: hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and he was absolutely correct. Forwards are not afraid to miss a shot or chance at goal. They relish this opportunity and if they miss the feeling is often to get the next one back. Some of the best forwards in the world have missed “sitters” or easy goals that average players could likely finish, however, these misses did not deter the top forwards from correcting those mistakes and being more consistent.
4) Ability to shield the ball: no matter the formation that your opposing team plays you as a forward will have someone marking you throughout the game. These defenders will often be behind you throughout the game and then come up quickly to man-mark you. With that being said the best forwards are particularly good at shielding the ball with a man on their back and moving well with the ball. A good way to break free from our defender and buy yourself more time on the ball is push off or do a quick fake to shake your defender and then run to the ball or on-coming pass instead of just running to the ball and being constantly marked which is a constant error many young forwards make. The quicker this fake and run, the more effective it becomes. Lionel Messi of Barcelona is constantly marked and forms the core of his movements and game on small quick bursts of speed to make space between him and the defender. His touch is excellent on the ball and he is so quick that he often does not have to do step-overs but can manage with simple body fakes to beat his opponents.
5) Aerial ability: to be a great forward you must be good in the air as many scoring opportunities will come from aerial play. These could include shots, rebounds but mainly from crossing the ball. You must develop this part of your game as it is crucial in scoring. Surely being a taller player will help you win the aerial batters but your height does not matter as you can shake free from you defender and time the cross right to score. An example of this would Lionel Messi’s goal fantastic header in the Champions League final versus Manchester United in 2009. The key here is to time the cross correctly and connect with the cross at the high point so that you are able to direct the ball with force into the back of the net. By connecting with the ball at the high point of the cross you will be able to keep the ball down rather than sky the ball.
6) Ability to use the toe-punt as a quick shot: the toe-punt is an often forgotten skill that that forwards fail to use. However, the best forwards in the world will pull this out of their bag of tricks when need be. It is a quick way of getting a fast shot off while surprising your opposing defenders and keeper. It does not require a large wind-up or step for that matter. The toe-punt can be a quick one-step motion. An example of the toe-punt would be Ronaldo of Brazil when he scored versus Turkey in the 2002 world cup.
What other aspects of the game do you think the best forwards have in common?