Soccer Forward vs Striker: What’s the Difference?

Post title over image of soccer striker kicking ball

The difference between positions on a soccer field can be confusing. None more so than the difference between a forward and a striker. If you have ever wondered about the difference between these two positions, let me explain how they compare.

The difference between a forward and a striker in soccer is that a forward is any player playing in an attacking position for the team, and a striker is a single player positioned nearest to the opposition goal.

These terms refer to similar, but slightly different positions. The overlap between the two is why it is often confusing. Keep reading, and by the end of this, you’ll fully understand the difference between a forward and a striker.

Similarities and Differences Between a Forward and a Striker

One of the easiest ways to compare anything is to place them side by side in a table.

So let’s do that!

As you look over the table below, you’ll probably notice that among the differences, there are actually a lot of similarities between both a striker and a forward.

Refers to a specific positionRefers to a number of different positions
Positioned closer to the opposition goal than any other playerPositioned close to the opposition goal but not always closer than any other player
Responsible for scoring goalsResponsible for scoring and creating goals
Fast with or without the ballUsually fast but sometimes rely on physical presence
Expert at scoring goalsExpert at scoring goals and creating goal-scoring opportunities
Expert at finding space between defendersExpert at seeing opportunities for a pass between defenders
Comparison of a striker and forward in soccer

This comparison shows a significant overlap in responsibilities for both a striker and a forward.

I know from experience that when I’ve played both roles in the past, an in-depth knowledge of how the roles of both positions interact with each other is incredibly beneficial.

This understanding between the striker and the other forwards can be the difference between a good team and a great team.

Check out my article on the role and responsibilities of a soccer forward for a more in-depth guide to this position.

Definition of a Striker vs a Forward

The terms “forward” and “striker” in soccer both refer to a player’s position on the soccer field.

Taking the time to understand how soccer positions work and why they are so important is vital to your understanding and enjoyment of soccer. This is why I created a guide to positions in soccer here. Check it out if you want more information about this.

To really understand the difference between a forward and a striker, it will help to look at each position in a bit more detail. Let’s look at the definitions of each term and then see how they compare.

Let’s start with a forward.

Forward Position

A forward in soccer is any player on a team positioned nearer to the opposition’s goal than to their own goal. The role of a forward is to create and convert goal-scoring opportunities for the team.

There is a wide range of players on a soccer field that may be considered forwards.

Included in this list are:

Every one of these positions is expected to contribute to the attacking capacity of the team.

Some of these forward positions are closer to the opposition’s goal than others, but their primary focus remains the same.

The Best Forwards in Soccer

To give you some actual examples of players playing in the role of a forward, here are 3 of the best forwards in soccer. As you look at them, focus on understanding what makes them a great forward rather than a striker.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is not just one of the best forwards in soccer, but arguably one of the best players of all time.

Messi is what is known as a playmaker. He expertly moves the ball around the field with an incredible ability to see and execute the perfect pass that set’s a team-mate up to score.

His unique ability to dribble the ball and not lose it also sets up himself or his team to score regularly.

Kylian Mbappe

The French forward, Kylian Mbappe, is known for his incredible speed and acceleration.

This quality allows him multiple opportunities throughout a game to create and score goals for his team, making him one of the most effective soccer forwards.


Another forward known for his ability to influence a game is Brazilian forward, Neymar.

Neymar‘s most outstanding quality is his ability to take on defenders. As he runs with the ball, he twists and turns, confusing the defenders and taking his team closer to the opponent’s goal.

Check out this video of some of the best forwards in soccer.

Top 10 Attackers In Football 2019/2020 ● HD

Each of these forwards is a prime example of what it takes to be great soccer forward. But not all of them are considered strikers.

Let’s look at the definition of a striker to help understand why.

Definition of a Striker

In soccer, a striker is the player positioned closest to the opposition’s goal. The striker is responsible for scoring goals for their team and staying in space to allow other players to pass to them and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Strikers are often the most well-known soccer players as they are the ones regularly scoring goals for their team. They usually get the glory, and a great striker can often be the one that scores the goals that win the game for their team.

Strikers traditionally play on the shoulder of the last defender. They are always ready to pounce on a loose ball in the penalty area, and they should always be looking for the space around them, ready to move into it and receive a pass from another player on their team.

For more insight on the role of a striker in soccer, check out this guide I wrote explaining everything you need to know.

3 of the Greatest Strikers

As an example of what it takes to be a great striker, look at these three players. As you look at them, focus on understanding what makes them great strikers rather than just forwards.

Robert Lewandowski

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is not just the best striker in the German Bundesliga but is often regarded as one of the world’s best strikers.

He is known for being an excellent goal scorer with the ability to be in the right place at the right time to make every goal-scoring opportunity count. This ability to find the best position to receive a pass and score a goal sets him apart from many other strikers. [source]

Cristiano Ronaldo

Striker Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game of soccer. If there’s one soccer player that everyone has heard of, it’s Ronaldo.

And he has this reputation for a good reason. His technical ability with the ball is exceptional. Using his feet and head, he scores goals for fun, as his goal-scoring record attests.

He is fast, strong, creative, and one of the hardest workers on the field.

He has played in many of the forward positions throughout his career, but he is most effective when playing striker. [source]

Sergio Aguero

Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero is another world-class striker.

Capable of taking a game and making it his own, he has all the qualities you expect of a striker.

  • Pace with and without the ball
  • Vision to see where he should be to be most effective
  • An incredible technique to make every moment with the ball count
  • and the ability to score goals consistently and with any part of his body. [source]

Have a look at this video to check out some of the best strikers in world soccer.

Top 10 Strikers in Football 2020

Comparing the definitions of both a forward and striker and looking at some specific examples of players who play that role of their teams should help you understand the difference between the two.

To find even more about what it means to be a striker in soccer, have a look at this article, I wrote explaining everything you need to know.

For another comparison, have a look at my article – Winger vs Striker in Soccer: What’s the Difference?

Center Forward vs Striker

One forward position you do need to be particularly aware of when comparing forwards and strikers is a center forward.

This is because the position of center forward has a lot more similarities to a striker than any other forward in soccer.

The difference between a center forward and a striker in soccer is that a center forward is the player in the most central position of the forwards. In contrast, a striker is a player that plays closest to the opposition’s goal.

The main confusion between these two positions is because the terms are often used interchangeably, and both positions occupy the same space on the soccer field.

As I’ve already talked about, a striker is positioned nearer the opponent’s goal than any other player. A center forward usually plays in this position also.

The most significant difference between a striker and a center forward is the type of player that fills this role for the team. A striker is usually a fast, agile player and a center forward is usually a taller, stronger player able to hold the ball up and operate as a target for the team.

These differences are subtle but significant.


I hope it is now clear to you the difference between a forward and a striker in soccer.

A striker can be a forward, but a forward isn’t always a striker!

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For more information on soccer positions, I recommend you have a look at one of these other article’s I’ve written:

And finally, if you want to be as fit as a professional soccer player, you should follow the same training and workouts that they do. To make this easy for you, I’ve put together a Soccer Fitness Guide. As a bonus, this guide contains a 30-day soccer fitness program designed to make you a fitter and better soccer player in just one month.

If this program works so well for the professionals, imagine how great it could be for you! Check it out here and get started today!

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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