The striker (wearing the red shirt) is past the defence (in the white shirts) and is about to take a shot at the goal. The goalkeeper will attempt to stop the ball from entering the goal.
Association football, soccer, or simply football, is a team sport played between two teams each consisting of 11 players and is the most popular sport in the world. It is a ball game played on a rectangular grass field (or occasionally on an artificial pitch) with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by manoeuvring the ball into the opposing goal. The predominant feature of the sport is that players other than the goalkeepers may not use their hands or arms to propel the ball in general play. The winner is the team that has scored more goals at the end of the match.
The modern game developed in England following the formation of the Football Association, whose 1863 set of rules created the foundations for the way the sport is played today. Football is governed internationally by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The most prestigious international football competition is the World Cup, which is also the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world.
Nature of the game
A goalkeeper dives to stop the ball from entering his goal.
Football is played in accordance with a set of rules, known as the Laws of the Game. The game is played using a single round ball (the football), and two teams of eleven players each compete to get the ball into the other team’s goal, thereby scoring a goal. The team that has scored more goals at the conclusion of the game is the winner; if both teams have scored an equal number of goals then the game is a draw.
The primary rule is that the players (other than the goalkeepers) may not intentionally touch the ball with their hands or arms during play (though they do use their hands during a throw-in restart). Although players mainly use their feet to move the ball around, they may use any part of their bodies other than their hands or arms.
In typical game play, players attempt to propel the ball towards their opponents’ goal through individual control of the ball, such as by dribbling (running with the ball close to their feet), passing the ball to a team-mate, and by taking shots at the goal, which is guarded by the opposing goalkeeper. Opposing players may try to regain control of the ball by intercepting a pass or through tackling the opponent who controls the ball; however, physical contact between opponents is restricted. Football is generally a free-flowing game, with the ball in play at all times except when it has left the field of play, or when play has been stopped by the referee. After a stoppage, play recommences with a specified restart.
At a professional level, most matches produce only a few goals. For example, during the English 2005-06 season of the FA Premier League, an average of 2.48 goals per match were scored.
The Laws of the Game do not specify any player positions other than goalkeeper, but a number of player specialisations have evolved. Broadly, these include three main categories: strikers, or forwards, whose main task is to score goals; defenders, who specialise in preventing their opponents from scoring; and midfielders, who dispossess the opposition and keep possession of the ball in order to pass it to the forwards. These positions are further differentiated by which side of the field the player spends most time in. For example, there are central defenders, and left and right midfielders. While players may spend most of the game in a specific position, there are few restrictions on player movement, and players can switch positions at any time. The layout of the players on the pitch is called the team’s formation, and defining the team’s formation and tactics is usually the prerogative of the team’s manager.