The Fullback Position In Soccer – An Overview Of The Importance of Fullbackers

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European football, commonly known as ‘soccer’ in the States, is a nearly 200-year-old regulated game played between two teams with 11 players on the field from each team. 

A soccer team is composed of four types of players: goalkeepers, forwards (or attackers), midfielders (or half-backs), and defenders (or full-backs). Each role is essential in the game, and teamwork between all players is vital for winning the match. 

This article will look closely at one of the less-discussed soccer positions. The fullback position in soccer is not as glamorous as an attacking role – most people in the world can name a famous footballer known for scoring goals for their team or their country.

What is a Fullback in Soccer?

Simply put, the players in fullback positions are in charge of keeping the enemy forwards from being able to score a goal.

As goalkeepers are the last line of defense for the goal, it is the job of fullbacks to keep the ball from reaching the goal line or the goalkeeper.

The fullback plays defensively, staying at the back of the field whenever the ball is in the enemy team’s possession.

As soon as the team gains possession of the ball and starts pressing forward, the fullbacks join in on the attack, providing support to the attackers and midfielders.

It is common for a fullback to travel the entire field length and get close to the enemy penalty area.

This wide range of travel makes fullbacks some of the most active players on the field, and looking at post-game statistics, you’d be surprised to see the fullbacks close to the top of the list!

Position of a Fullback

Fullbacks start at the back of the field and stay there when the enemy team presses an attack. Fullbacks are divided into three positions: left-back, center-back and right-back. 

Center-back is in charge of defending the central part of the field and blocking enemies from scoring right down the middle of the field, while the left- and right-back stay on the left and right side, respectively. Each player in the fullback position remains on their designated field section, whether right or left. 

Soccer coaches generally have at least two fullbacks on the field simultaneously – one left-back and one right-back.

As the team composition changes throughout the game due to tactical substitutions, the team can have more or less defensive players on the field simultaneously.

There is no rule to limit the number of fullbacks a coach can put in the game. However, adding more defensive players would mean decreasing the number of attackers on the field and thus is not commonly done in big-league games.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Fullback in Soccer

We will elaborate on the main tasks of a fullback player on the field, giving you a better understanding of what they do. Roughly in order of importance, the key roles and responsibilities of a fullback player in soccer are the following:

Defend the Goal 

Even though the goal has a designated player – the goalkeeper – keeping it safe, it’s also the job of fullbacks to keep the enemy ball away from the goal and the penalty area. A good fullback stays in the left or right part of the field during the attack to try and counter it to their best ability. 

The key players that fullbacks need to focus on are the opposing team’s attackers, so, for instance, the left-back is in charge of defending the left side of the field from the enemy left attacker. It sounds simple, but this is a high-responsibility role with much pressure on the defender.

Use the Ball Effectively

A fullback needs to be able to make split-second decisions regarding where to kick the ball and think four steps ahead to make the best possible choice.

It is a fullback’s job to regain the ball during an attack, so they shouldn’t avoid using moves like tackles and other hindering maneuvers. 

It’s common to see a fullback throw the ball back in once it has exited the playing field. If you’ve ever wondered why, the fullback taking the ball means other players won’t have to move from their positions and can resume their duties without delays.

A great defender can spot opportunities and throw the ball to the right player to progress the game and even assist in a goal.

Support the Team’s Attacking Players

A fullback can support their team while not actively defending. When the team focuses on attacking, the defenders can provide excellent passing opportunities thanks to their fieldside positions.

Sometimes it’s impossible to press the attack down the middle of the field, and passing the ball to a fullback gives the midfielders an excellent opportunity to send the ball to the attackers.

It’s also possible to help push the enemy team into an unfavorable position, like offside. If strikers don’t pay attention during their attack, they can easily get caught in the other team’s offside trap

Being offside happens when a part of the attacking player’s body, with the exception of hands and arms, is closer to the goal line than the ball or the second-to-last opponent.

Since fullbacks usually fill the second-to-last role on the field, a skillful player could easily trap the attacker into a position where the referee doesn’t allow the attack to go on.

Communicate with Other Players

Fullbacks have to understand and predict how a game might progress, and one of their key roles is anticipating an enemy team’s counterattack.

It’s impossible to understate the importance of communicating with your team when recognizing a threat so the entire team can prepare for the oncoming attack.

A fullback must communicate effectively with their midfielders. As midfielders provide a link between defending and attacking players, passing on messages and signals understandably and concisely is necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page.

4 Key Traits of a Fullback

Only some footballers are fit to play in the fullback position. To succeed as a fullback, you need to have the following key traits:


Fullbacks are some of the most active players on the field. It doesn’t matter how excellent your skills are or how well you may be able to fend off counterattacks – if you don’t have the stamina to be ready to run for the entirety of the 90-minute game (and extra time!), this position is not for you.

Fullbacks like Bayern’s Alphonso Davies or Liverpool’s Andy Robertson follow rigorous training routines to ensure they have what it takes to survive a full-length game.

Defensive Fundamentals

As fullback is mainly a defensive position, a player must understand the technical maneuvers they can use to stop the enemy team from scoring a goal from their fieldside.

During training, coaches emphasize the need to keep the ball out of the penalty area, which is the basis for all defending fundamentals. 

Defenders are trained to keep the scoring opportunities of the enemy team to a minimum. Everything else is secondary.

All the best defenders in the world have practiced for thousands of hours to make defending their second nature. This position is hard to master if you’re not ready to put in the hours.

Great Positioning

Creating attacking opportunities for your team is one of the areas where a good full-backer can truly shine.

Whenever the ball is not near the player’s vicinity, the defender can run into empty channels to provide support by creating passing chances, which may lead to great opportunities for scoring goals. 

In addition to creating passing chances, the left- and right-back players can trap enemies in an offside situation, where they cannot continue attacking from the same position.

Acceleration and Pace

As a fullback, you need to be able to sprint as fast as a winger to stop them. To compare, an attacking player sprints only for short durations to get the ball to the goal. A defender needs to be able to sprint to the ball whenever it’s in a threatening or dangerous location.

Because of that, defenders frequently do interval training during their practices. As interval training improves both stamina and speed, it is a crucial exercise type for any soccer player who wants to excel in a defending position.


As we have explained, a fullback position in soccer is essential for keeping the team’s penalty area safe and in controlled conditions.

Being a fullback is an incredibly demanding role that takes years to master, and it is not suited for every soccer player. Due to having such an essential role in both defending and attacking, fullbacks train extra hard and can be considered some of the fittest members of the team. 

No matter the positioning – left, right, or center – the fullback is irreplaceable and a vital member of a successful football team.

Even though fullbacks will never be as famous as superstar goal scorers, soccer wouldn’t be the same without them. 

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