List of 5 Hardest Soccer Positions You Should Know

So you think scoring goals is all there is to soccer? Each position on the field plays an important role, and some demand exceptional skill sets which make them one of the most difficult positions In football.

This guide will rank the top 5 hardest positions In football based on how demanding they are In the game both physically, and mentally.

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What Are The Top 5 Hardest Football Positions?

Here are the most demanding positions in soccer according to the fan’s votes:

RankPositionFan Votes (%)
1Goalkeeper (GK)25%
2Center Back (CB)20%
3Fullback (FB)20%
4Center Attacking Midfielder (CAM)20%
5Defensive Midfielder (DM)15%

1. Goalkeeper (GK)


In football, the goalkeeper holds one of the most challenging positions on the field. Their primary task is to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals, making it a specialized and demanding role.

Unlike outfield players, goalkeepers have unique privileges such as using their hands within the penalty area, which gives them exclusive rights to handle the ball (excluding throw-ins).

Here’s why being a goalkeeper is considered one of the toughest positions in football: Firstly, goalkeepers face immense pressure to maintain a clean sheet, meaning they must stop every goal attempt.

This requires exceptional reflexes, agility, and decision-making skills. They must anticipate the trajectory of the ball and position themselves effectively to make crucial saves, often in split-second scenarios.

Additionally, goalkeepers play a key role in directing the team’s defensive strategies. With an unobstructed view of the entire pitch, they guide their defenders during set pieces like free kicks and corners, organizing defensive walls, and marking opposition players.

This strategic responsibility demands clear communication and leadership qualities. Moreover, goalkeepers are often separated during training sessions, focusing on specialized drills to enhance their unique skills.

They work extensively with goalkeeping coaches to refine techniques such as footwork, diving, and quick recovery after saves.

Unlike outfield players who require endurance for the match, goalkeepers must exhibit short bursts of intense athleticism throughout the game.

Also, the psychological aspect of goalkeeping cannot be underestimated. Goalkeepers must maintain focus and confidence despite facing relentless pressure from opposition attackers and the expectations of fans and coaches.

A single mistake can have significant consequences, strengthening the mental resilience required for the position. Finally, goalkeepers must adhere to the same rules as outfield players, except for specific privileges within the penalty area.

This means they must go through challenges like offside traps, one-on-one situations, and aerial duels while remaining within the boundaries of fair play.

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2. Center Back (CB)



The center-back (CB) position is regarded as one of the most difficult positions In soccer. Center-backs, also known as central defenders or center-halves, play an important part in defending the area directly in front of the goal, aiming to thwart opposing players, especially center-forwards, from scoring.

They use different techniques such as blocking shots, executing tackles, intercepting passes, contesting headers, and marking forwards to disrupt the opposition’s attacking play.

Typically, center-backs are tall and adept at winning aerial duels, making them formidable opponents in defense. Modern football formations often deploy two or three center-backs in front of the goalkeeper.

Common formations like 4–2–3–1, 4–3–3, and 4–4–2 use two center-backs to strengthen the defense. When in possession, center-backs are expected to distribute the ball effectively, often making long and precise passes to initiate attacking moves.

They may also resort to long clearances to relieve defensive pressure. Pairing a physically dominant defender with one who is more agile and comfortable on the ball has become a prevalent strategy in modern football.

This pairing ensures solidity in defense while also reducing ball-playing from the back. While center-backs primarily focus on defensive duties, they occasionally move forward during set-piece situations, particularly corner kicks.

Their heading ability becomes valuable when attempting to score from aerial deliveries into the opponent’s penalty area. Defensive lines use two main strategies: zonal defense and man-to-man marking.

In zonal defense, each center-back covers a specific area of the pitch, whereas in man-to-man marking, each center-back tracks an opposition player.

Historically, defensive systems like catenaccio featured distinct roles for center-backs, including the “stopper” responsible for man-marking and the “sweeper” or “libero” tasked with sweeping up loose balls and initiating attacks. Despite their defensive focus, center-backs help in shaping a team’s tactical approach and defensive solidity.

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3. Fullback (FB)

Paolo Maldini

The fullback position, comprising the left-back and right-back, is recognized for its challenging nature. Historically, fullbacks served primarily as defensive pillars, guarding the flanks and blocking opposition advances.

However, the modern game has seen a significant evolution in their role, with fullbacks now assuming a more dynamic and attacking stance.

Traditionally, fullbacks were similar to modern-day center-backs under the 2–3–5 formation, forming the last line of defense and engaging opposing forwards centrally.

Subsequent formations, like the 3–2–5 and 4–2–4, led to wider defensive roles, necessitating fullbacks to counteract opposing wingers and provide flank support.

In today’s game, fullbacks play an increasingly crucial offensive role, often overlapping with wingers to create attacking opportunities.

Their responsibilities range from obstructing opposition attackers to making off-the-ball runs, supplying crosses, and even taking throw-ins.

Moreover, they’re tasked with marking wingers, maintaining defensive discipline, and offering passing options down the flank.

Fullbacks require a diverse skill set, including pace, stamina, marking, tackling, dribbling ability, and tactical intelligence.

Many, like Paolo Maldini and Sergio Ramos, show versatility, Impressing in multiple positions. Despite their defensive duties, attacking fullbacks contribute to assists, particularly during counterattacks.

While fullbacks rarely score goals due to defensive responsibilities during set pieces, they occasionally capitalize on counterattack opportunities.

Their role demands a delicate balance between defensive solidity and attacking prowess, making them great support on the field.

4. Attacking Midfielder (CAM)

Kevin De Bruyne

The position of center-attacking midfielder (CAM) in football is one of the most demanding roles on the field. A CAM is an advanced midfielder positioned between the central midfielders and forwards.

Their primary job is to drive the team’s offense. Some attacking midfielders are known as trequartistas or fantasistas, which means they are creative playmakers.

These players are usually very mobile, skillful, and have excellent technical abilities. They are known for their deft touch, dribbling skills, vision, and ability to pass and shoot from long range.

Not all attacking midfielders are trequartista. Some are more vertical, acting almost like secondary strikers. Their role is to link up play, hold the ball, or provide the final pass. These players must create space for attacks, making them essential to the team’s offensive strategy.

Depending on where they play on the field, attacking midfielders can be on the left, right, or center, but the central attacking midfielder is often seen as the playmaker or the number 10.

A CAM serves as the offensive man of the team, often “playing in the hole” between the midfield and the forwards.

This position demands superior technical skills in passing and dribbling, and the ability to read the opposing defense to deliver precise passes to the striker.

The main role of the attacking midfielder is to create scoring opportunities using their vision, control, and technical skills.

They achieve this by making crosses, through balls, and headed knockdowns to teammates. They might also set up their shooting opportunities by dribbling or performing quick give-and-go passes with teammates.

When a team uses a creative attacking midfielder, often the player wears the number 10 shirt and is the star of the team. The team is usually structured to let this player roam freely and create plays as needed.

The 4-4-2 diamond formation is one popular setup that allows for a specialized attacking midfielder. In Italy, this role is called the fantasist or trequartista , in Spain, it’s known as the Mediapunta, in Brazil, it’s the meia atacante, and in Argentina and Uruguay, it’s the enganche.

Examples of advanced playmakers include Zico, Francesco Totti, Kevin De Bruyne, and Michel Platini. More versatile playmakers like Zinedine Zidane, Kaká, Andrés Iniesta, and David Silva could control the game from deeper areas and push forward to create chances.

Mesut Özil is another example, known for his classic number 10 style and ability to make precise final passes. In some cases, a false attacking midfielder plays this role.

This player may appear to play as a CAM but drops deeper into midfield, creating space for teammates to exploit. Wayne Rooney has played this role at times, helping his team regain possession and start attacks from a deeper position.

Another variation is the false 10 or central winger, who drifts wide to overload the flanks, creating numerical advantages or exploiting space in the center.

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5. Defensive Midfielder (DM)

Sergio Busquets

Defensive midfielders (DM) are some of the hardest positions to play in football. These players focus on protecting their team’s goal.

They often defend the area in front of their team’s defense or closely mark specific opponents. Defensive midfielders may also cover for full-backs or center-backs if these players move forward to join an attack.

Sergio Busquets, a well-known DM, described his role as helping out wherever needed, even if it means running to cover someone else’s position.

A good defensive midfielder needs to be very aware of their position, anticipate the opponent’s moves, and be skilled in marking, tackling, and intercepting the ball.

They must also have excellent passing skills and great stamina and strength for their defensive duties. In South American football, this role is called “volante de marca,” while in Mexico, it’s known as “volante de contención.”

In Portugal, it’s called “trinco.” A holding midfielder, like Caicedo, plays close to their team’s defense, allowing other midfielders to move forward.

These players usually make simple, short passes to more attacking teammates but may also attempt more challenging passes depending on the team’s strategy.

The holding midfielder’s role was pioneered by Marcelo Bielsa. They are often seen in formations like 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 diamonds.

There are three types of holding midfielders: the destroyer, the creator, and the carrier. The destroyer focuses on tackling and regaining possession, while the creator retains possession and makes long passes.

The carrier, or box-to-box midfielder, can win back possession and advance the ball, either by passing or running with it.

A deep-lying playmaker, like Andrea Pirlo, is a type of holding midfielder who specializes in passing rather than tackling.

These players attempt complex passes and set the tempo of their team’s play. In Italy, this role is known as “regista,” and in Brazil, it’s called “meia-armador.”

This position evolved from the historic center half-back role, which was required in the early 2-3-2-3 formation. Over time, the center-half role became more defensive, but some players still had creative responsibilities.

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