Fullback in Soccer: Meaning, Role, and Responsibilities

Every soccer team consists of several different positions. One of the most common positions is the fullback, but many people don’t fully understand what a fullback is or their role in a team. So, let me explain.

A fullback is a defender on a soccer team who starts a game positioned beside the touchline of the field. The role of the fullback is primarily to prevent the opposition from creating a goal-scoring opportunity. However, a fullback is also responsible for supporting their team’s offensive players.

The fullback in a team has several different roles and responsibilities. We will look at each of them in this article.

I’ll also explain the difference between a fullback and a wingback, as understanding the difference between the two can be confusing.

But let’s start by looking at why a fullback is called a “fullback.”

Why Is It Called Fullback in Soccer?

The word fullback in soccer comes from the period of soccer history where the players in this position started a game as the primary defenders on their team. The position is called fullback because these players were further back than any other player.

In the years after England invented soccer, many teams played their games with a formation of 2-3-5. In this formation, the two players at the back of the team were called the “fullbacks” because they were the furthest back of all the players. They were “fully back.”

Original Fullback Position In Late 1800s in 2-3-5 formation
Original fullback position In the late 1800s in 2-3-5 formation

Over the years, the formations teams used developed and evolved from these earlier forms, and the position of a fullback gradually moved out toward the sidelines of a soccer field.

But despite these changes, the name of fullback stuck.

Position of a Fullback in Soccer

In modern-day soccer, a fullback starts the game on the left or right of the defensive line.

There are always two fullbacks in a team. One on either side of the defensive line.

You can see this displayed in the image below.

Position of fullback marked on a soccer field
Position of fullback marked on a soccer field

Fullbacks play out wide as their primary responsibility is to defend the sides of the field from the opposition’s oncoming attacking players.

Covering this position on the field allows them to shield their goal and attempt to block the ball from entering the penalty area from the touchline.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Fullback in Soccer

Having established how the fullback got their name and where they play, let’s look at what a fullback does.

A fullback has four primary responsibilities:

  1. Defend the goal
  2. Use the ball effectively
  3. Support the team’s attacking players
  4. Communicate with other players

Let’s look at each of these roles.

Defending Their Team’s Goal

A fullback is a key player in any soccer team because of the defensive role they play. Their role is to protect the goal from attack and help the team win the ball back from the opposition.

Because of their position, they have a fantastic view of the entire field and are ideally placed for tracking the opponent’s wingers as they move up into the attacking half.

Fullbacks are also expected to keep their opponents out of the penalty area and 6-yard box by using their defensive skills and not recklessly diving into tackles. (Although it helps any defender if they can master the slide tackle!)

Fullbacks are responsible for intercepting crosses and restricting space inside the box for the opposition players.

Using the Ball Effectively

A fullback plays a crucial role on the field with their ability in possession of the ball.

A great fullback should be fast and have excellent ball control skills.

They need to be able to play one-touch passes with their teammates and have good dribbling skills to get the ball out wide. Their ability to effectively distribute the ball around the field will give their team more opportunities to score more goals.

Moreover, a solid and confident fullback must be able to control the ball at high speed.

Every fullback should also be calm when the ball is on the ground. This helps the team maintain possession of the ball and move it forward.

Soccer fullback in action
Soccer fullback in action

Supporting the Team’s Attacking Players

Another role of the fullback is to be a vital part of a team’s attack.

They are responsible for drawing their opposite number toward the side of the field and limiting the concentration of opponents in the center of the field. This action gives the midfielders and forwards more room to operate.

A fullback is a versatile position and is often considered one of the most important positions in soccer.

A good fullback creates good scoring chances while also providing strong cover at the back that will be difficult to penetrate.

A fullback must remain alert and prepared to assist in the team’s attack at any point during the game.

One way you may see a fullback doing this is when they pass the ball to the winger to penetrate the opponent’s defense.

In addition, the fullback can act as a winger and can cross the ball to their teammates within the opposition penalty area. 

Communicating With Their Teammates

Another responsibility of a fullback is to always stay in communication with their teammates and be in constant contact with those around them.

Having excellent communication skills helps a team work together and react quickly to defensive situations. This should help the defense be more effective when called upon.

In addition, a fullback should be able to control the space around them. As they communicate with and coordinate their teammates, they ensure the opposing team does not overrun them.

Good communication between fullbacks and midfielders is also essential for a fullback to effectively perform their role in an attacking move.

Wingback Vs Fullback in Soccer

Having described the role of a fullback, you may be surprised at the similarities between a fullback and a wingback. I’ve compared other soccer positions before, such as a Striker Vs a Forward or a Winger Vs a Striker. Still, here I want to explain the difference between a wingback and a fullback.

The difference between a wingback and a fullback in soccer is primarily one of position on the field. A wingback starts a game higher up the field than a fullback and carries more responsibility to support the attack. In comparison, a fullback’s primary role is to defend the goal.

While the wingback is still a defender, they play closer to the midfield than the fullback. The fullback sits deeper than his corresponding defender and is assigned a more defensive role.

A fullback is more likely to play alongside central defenders. In contrast, a wingback plays further forward, still beside the touchline, but set back just behind the midfielders.

Have a look at the image below to see the difference.

Position of fullback compared to position of wingback on a soccer field
Position of fullback compared to the position of wingback on a soccer field

Both wingbacks and fullbacks need to be able to move along the sidelines of the field and maintain connections with the offensive players.

Defensive Responsibilities

The wingback’s primary defensive responsibility is to track the wide attacker and make it difficult for them to cross the ball or to score.

This can be a challenging job in many cases, but the rewards of successfully performing this role can be well worth it.

This often means that a wingback moves further up the field than a fullback. The fullback tends to stay back and support the defense, whereas the wingback continues to track the opposition player.

A fullback’s primary defensive role is also to prevent the opposition from crossing the ball into the box as well as stop any player dribbling the ball toward the goal.

However, a fullback does not track the opposition’s winger as far up the field.

Attacking Responsibilities

A fullback’s primary attacking responsibility is to support the offensive players from the back of the field. In addition, they need to accurately pass the ball when the opportunity arises and move forward with the ball when possible.

The wingback has broader attacking responsibilities than the fullback.

A wingback can play as an inverted form of a fullback, which means that they play out wide but can drift centrally.

A wingback can also play in the middle, which means that they can play the wingback role when needed. This is important because he is responsible for defending the entire midfield.

It may seem as though the wingback position is a more “full” position than fullback, and fullback is possibly the easiest position on the fieldHowever, they still carry an important role in a team.

Both a wingback and fullback can see all areas of the pitch. As a result, they can block crosses and create good opportunities for their team.

Players in either position need to be agile and quick, as these roles require a high level of footspeed.

For more info on other soccer positions, check out one of my previous guides:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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