What Is a Fullback in Soccer?

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

Soccer has so many positions and roles on the pitch that it’s more than natural to have doubts. Sometimes, position names may not make much sense (and might be similar to other sports).

If you’re wondering: “what is a fullback in soccer” or “what is the job of a fullback” I’ve got you covered. After all, this is my favorite sport, and fullback is one of my favorite positions in association football.

A fullback in soccer is a defender who plays wide on the right or left side of the defensive line — thus being called right-back or left-back. While their main job is stopping opposing wingers and forwards, in modern soccer, fullbacks are vital in the attack by supplying crosses and making assists.

The above fullback definition already says a lot, but allow me to expand on it a bit more so you can fully understand the role and responsibilities of a fullback in soccer and much more.

What Are Fullbacks in Soccer?

Fullbacks in soccer are the elements of the defensive line positioned closer to the right or left touchlines.

Hence, a fullback can be a right-back or a left-back. There are only two fullbacks per soccer team: one per each side.

A fullback’s primary job is to defend.

A good fullback needs excellent defending capabilities to protect their channel on the field by marking, obstructing, or stopping opposing wingers, forwards, and midfielders.

Ideally, fullbacks should also be able to attack.

In fact, in today’s soccer, having right-backs and left-backs good offensively is vital to a team’s attacking strategy.

They should be good at making off-the-ball runs into spaces, providing support and passing options down the flanks to their team’s midfielders, wingers, and forwards.

Fullbacks should also be able to supply crosses into the opposition’s penalty area and assist other players.

In summary, fullbacks have two center roles: defending and attacking.

Defending well is crucial to their success: their primary and most important function. Additionally, right- or left-backs that can attack well make any coach happy.

That said, the fullback position is very demanding at the physical level as these players need to cover a lot of ground and run a lot.

Fullbacks need to be dynamic, strong, and aware. And also always physically, tactically, and technically fit to succeed and help their teams.

What Is the Main Job of a Fullback in Soccer?

Fullback is one of the most versatile positions in soccer.

Some fullbacks operate primarily as defenders while others focus on attack. Some play both roles.

Essentially, their job description varies depending on the type of formation and tactics their team employs.

Regardless, as defenders, the main job of a fullback in soccer is to defend.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Fullback in Soccer

Defensive Roles

When their side loses possession of the ball, the responsibility of a fullback is to:

  • Retake their place in the defensive strategy of the team.
  • Secure their flank.
  • Read the game and anticipate the opposing team’s moves to exploit gaps in the defense.
  • Mark, obstruct, or otherwise stop the opposing team’s attacking players.
  • Protect their penalty area by blocking crosses and long balls into the box.
  • Defend the back post when the other team attacks from the contrary side.
  • Try to steal the ball from an opposing player that moves into their channel.

Offensive Roles

When their team wins possession of the ball, the responsibility of a fullback is to:

  • Become a passing option for their teammates.
  • Move forward or to the center and provide support for their teammates.
  • Cover the space behind the opposing team’s wingers or help the central midfielders in possession.
  • Make short or long passes to keep the ball moving quickly across the pitch.
  • Take their wingers’ place in the flank, drawing defenders closer to them and allowing their wingers to move to the center and unbalance the opposing defense.
  • Cross the ball into the opposing team’s penalty area.
  • Assist strikers or other colleagues.
  • Take shots on goal.

In some types of formations without wingers, fullbacks can be positioned further up the flank or cover it entirely by going up and down as their team transitions from defense to attack and vice-versa. In those instances, they play as wing-backs.

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.