What is a Fullback in Soccer?

There are various positions in the game of soccer from the goalkeeper and center back to midfielders and wingers.

One of the most important positions is fullback. Fullbacks are defenders who play in the wide defensive positions. 

There are actually two categories of fullbacks: 

  • One who plays on a right wide position (fullback right)
  • One who plays on the left wide position (fullback left)

It is a very important position as the player generally stays in defense at all times until a set piece. A fullback provides a physical obstruction to the opposition’s attacking players.

They do this by shepherding the player to an area of the pitch where there is less chance of the opposition scoring and where they have less influence on the game.  

Of course, in a typical game of soccer, a fullback will do a lot more than just defend. They are often assigned to complete throw-ins and supply crosses into the opposition’s penalty box.

To help you understand what a fullback is in soccer and what they do, we have compiled an in-depth guide below.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about fullbacks in soccer so you can plan your next game’s tactics or help you gain knowledge on the beautiful game. 

A fullback’s role 

Although fullbacks have been a part of soccer teams for centuries, they have become more and more popular in modern soccer.

They have supremely important positions on the pitch and, unlike center backs, fullbacks have a lot more space to move around on the pitch.

This leaves the center backs with the responsibility of marking the opposing team’s strikers. 

Fullbacks run wide and assist in offensive attacks. They do this by overlapping while keeping a close eye on their team’s defensive line.

Fullbacks mark the opposition’s wingers as these are the players looking to make use of any space left by the fullback while they overlap. 

Despite there being two fullback positions (fullback right and fullback left), the two positions are very similar.

One fullback’s job is to mark the opposition’s nearest striker while maintaining a close watch on their wingers. This means a high level of fitness and agility.

Fullbacks need to be fast runners if they want to be successful at their tasks. These players also need to have good communication with the closest center back on their team.

This is so they can cover for each other when and where it is needed.  

One main goal of a fullback is to prevent the opposing team’s winger, fullback, or attacking midfielder from moving into the penalty box.

A fullback tries to do this and keep the ball away from the goal as much as possible. A fullback is also required to dribble the ball in the final third.

They should be able to play one-twos, and take part in combination plays as well as crossing when needed. 

Successful fullbacks should have high technical proficiency. This is so they can outthink and beat the opposition’s forward without any fouling taking place.

Forwards who are playing in a wide position usually have very good control of the ball. This means the defender should be technically savvy to the tricks and movements of the opposition’s forwards.

A technical defender has a better chance of winning the ball from the forward and knows exactly how to handle these situations when they arise. 

Key responsibilities of a fullback include:

  • Proving a defense against the attacking players of the opposition. This is done by obstructing them and moving them away from the goal area to an area that is safer with less chance of goal scoring. 
  • Most throw-ins are generally assigned to fullbacks.
  • Make off-the-ball runs into different spaces down the channels.
  • Supplying crosses into the opposition’s penalty box.
  • Marking wingers and other attacking players from the opposition. The aim is to dispossess attack players who have breached the defensive line. This is usually achieved through sliding tackles from the side.
  • Providing passing options down the flank to create more opportunities for sequences such as one-two passing.
  • Maintaining tactical discipline by ensuring their teammates are not overrunning the defensive line.
  • Attacking fullbacks can help to pin back opposition fullbacks and wingers deeper into their own half.
  • When in a wingerless formation, a fullback will need to cover the roles of both wingers and fullbacks. On occasions such as this, the defensive work is usually shared with a central midfielder

A fullback: The qualities required 

A fullback The qualities required 

As we mentioned above, a fullback should have very good communication skills. This is to communicate with their teammates throughout the action of a match.

For instance, if the opposition’s fullback is making offensive runs, then a fullback should be able to communicate with his team’s forwards to let them know of this.

A fullback should also communicate with his team’s midfielders so they know when to fall back into a defensive position or when to push forward for an attack.

Wingers also need to know the opposition’s movements but sometimes it’s only the fullback who can divulge the information required at the time. 

Fullbacks must have technical skills. This is so they can make good runs with the ball and control it easily such as dribbling.

They should also be able to make composed passes with their teammates and help to lower the pressure brought on by the wingers of the opposition.

With skill and communication, a fullback should help to keep wingers away from the goal and help retrieve or maintain possession of the ball. 

In general, fullbacks are usually good decision makers. This means they must make split-second decisions, even when the pressure is well and truly on.

If this is not achieved, they can be caught out of position resulting in loss of possession and an easier shot at goal for the opposing team’s strikers. A fullback should decide when to overlap and when to fall back. 

It’s important to remember that a soccer game lasts for 90 minutes and, during this time, a fullback is doing a lot of hard work. Therefore, they are required to be physically fit.

As the years have gone on, sportsmen and women have improved their fitness levels. This means that a fullback today may need to be fitter than a player from 20 years ago. 

There is no doubt about it – fullbacks are extremely important positions in soccer. Compared to soccer of the past, fullbacks tend to contribute far more to the outcome of games these days.

But, in order to have any positive impact on a match, fullbacks need to have high concentration levels, be physically fit, and fast, and be prepared to continually work on their technical skills. 

Fullbacks offensive runs 

One main role for fullbacks is to assist in offensive runs. This means that they have to overlap during a match resulting in the stretching of a team’s defensive line.

At certain points of a soccer match, a fullback will take up the role of a winger. They can supply their forwards with enough crosses into the box for shots on goal.

Therefore, all fullbacks require top-quality ball control and skills. They also need excellent vision into the opposition’s box so they can supply their teammates with accurate crosses. 

Fullbacks are essentially athletes. This is why they need to be athletic and agile with great stamina and endurance.

Running around the pitch for 90 minutes is no easy feat so being able to do this while maintaining concentration is vital.

Since fullbacks take up two roles at the same time, they may be the busiest players on the soccer field. 

In modern soccer, a fullback is generally judged on how well they can cross the ball to their teammates, especially into the opposition’s penalty box.

They tend to be judged more highly in this area than when stopping crosses in their defensive positions. The better accuracy a fullback has with crosses, the better chance their team has at scoring. 

Some would say that too much is expected or even demanded of a fullback in the modern game.

This is because they are expected to have an attacking mindset while, at the same time, keeping a keen eye on the wide defensive positions whenever they lose the ball and have to defend.

It is certainly not a position for someone who likes to take a breather every 10 minutes or so.