Football (Soccer)/The Basics
Football (or soccer as Americans call it) is one of the most popular sports in the world. One of the reasons is that the only equipment the sport needs is a ball, cleats, shinguards, and any markers for the goals. Bring in two teams and the game is on. Informal games can therefore be very easily set up.
The game consists of two teams of 11 players. One of the players is considered a goalkeeper (goalie) and that player's objective is not to allow the ball to go into the goal. The goalkeeper is the only player who may handle the ball but only in the penalty area that (s)he is defending. The other ten field players' objective is to score by putting the ball into their opponent's goal, while trying to avoid conceding goals. They do this by dribbling, passing, and eventually shooting the ball. The field players can use any part of their body except their hands or arms. The duration of the game is 90 minutes, with a change of ends and an interval of not more than 15 minutes after 45 minutes. The referee may make allowance for time lost in each half. Once the game is over, the team that scores the most goals (the number of times the ball goes in the goal) is declared the winner. In the case of a draw, and depending on the rules of the competition, a result may be reached by extra time (of 30 minutes duration) or a penalty shoot-out.
The field must be rectangular and either natural or artificial. The field size is directly proportional in league and international matches. Generally, the football field should be 105 x 68 meters (115 yd × 74 yd), but often each field has different dimensions. The longer sides of the field are called touch lines, while the shorter sides are called goal lines. Fields are divided into two halves with each team defending their own goal. Adjacent to the goal lines are the 18-yard and 6-yard boxes, which signify where the goal and goalkeeper are. The 18-yard box is also known as the penalty area, from where penalty shots can be taken after a foul is committed by the defending team.
The ball used in football is spherical, 27-28cm in circumference and 14-16 oz (410-450g) mass. The balls used in a league or international match have to be approved by FIFA. Each professional league around the world uses its own specific ball. There is some overlap, for example both the Spanish La Liga and the English Premier League use the Nike Odrem (2015). Furthermore, each World Cup offers a new and unique ball reflecting to the host country's culture.
The players are 11 on both sides of teams in a match, however substitutes are also available. There are four classes in which the 11 players are divided:-
- Goalkeepers: He/She has to try and stop the other team from scoring (kicking the ball into his goal). The goalkeeper is the only player who can touch the ball with his/her hands.
- Defenders: They try and stop the other team from scoring by protecting their goal.
- Midfielders: They are the players in between the defenders and strikers. They pass the ball to the strikers so they can score. Midfielders also help defenders (by defending their goal) and strikers (by trying to score themselves).
- Strikers (also known as forwards or attackers): They try to score goals by kicking the ball into the other team's goal.
Although there are 11 players on a team there are several commonly used ways to arrange them. The three most commonly used formations today are probably the 4-5-1, 4-3-3, and the 4-4-2 (note: first # is the # of defenders, the second midfielders, and third forwards) although there are some different variations of each. Two variations of a 4-4-2 are the "flat back four" and a "diamond back" or "sweeper, stopper" where the back four defenders form a diamond with the stopper ahead of the sweeper. Other less commonly used formations are the 3-6-1, 4-2-4, and the 3-5-2. Changes can be made in the formations according to the position of the game. If a team has scored only one goal, they can change formations in the closing stages of the match or they can put more players forward to score more goals when they are trailing by a goal.
There are 4 referees. The centre referee has sole authority, but two assistant referees who officiate from the touchline may advise him, particularly on issues of offsides and whether the ball has left the pitch, or draw his attention to infringements that he may have missed. The fourth referee stands off the pitch in between both team's benches and controls substitutions and keeps track of the games goals, bookings and ejections.
A football match consists of two halves and each half is 45 minutes long. Between the two halves, there is an interval, which is not more than 15 minutes long.
Stoppage time (also called injury time) is the time added on at the end of each half at the discretion of the referee. The stoppage time added is roughly proportional to the length of delays in the game. These delays may be due to injuries, time lost through substitutions, general time wasting etc. Although these may seem insignificant, stoppage time can be crucial for losing teams to equalize or even win. A notable example is the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Atletico Madrid was leading 1-0 when Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid equalized in stoppage time. The game went into extra time whereby Real won 4-1 leading to their 10th European title. Another instance in point is the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Bayern Munich scored an early goal and controlled most of the match, until Manchester United turned things around with two goals in the 91st and 93rd minutes of the game to win 2-1. In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Brazil scored two goals against Costa Rica. Countinho scored a goal in the 91st minute, and another by Neymar in the 97th. Also, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Korea scored two goals against Germany, making it the earliest exit for the defending champions since 1938. Kim Young-gwon scored in the 92nd minute; Son Heung-min scored in the 96th minute.
If tied at the end of regular time, in some competitions the game may go into extra time, which consists of two further 15-minute periods. If the score is still tied after extra time, the teams proceed to penalty shoot outs (known officially in the Laws of the Game as "kicks from the penalty mark") to determine the winner. Note that goals scored during extra time periods are considered part of the final score of the game, unlike kicks from the penalty mark which are only used to decide the team that progresses to the next stage of the tournament.
In competitions in which each round involves the two teams playing each other twice, known as two-legged ties, the winner is the team with the highest aggregate score over the two matches. If this results in a draw, the away goals rule is usually applied to determine which team progresses: the goals scored by each team away from their nominated venue being compared. Should results still be equal following this calculation, the game will go into extra time. If the score is still tied after extra time, kicks from the penalty mark are usually required. Other competitions may require a tied game to be replayed, but that is a very rare rule.
A goal is scored when the ball crosses the goal line entirely, between the goalposts and under the bar, provided the attacking side has not committed an offence. Obviously, the most common way of scoring is by kicking the ball, but the next most common way is to hit the ball with a player's head, more commonly known as 'heading the ball'. Soccer balls headed by highly skilled players can travel over 20 miles per hour.
The application of the offside law is best considered in three steps: Offside position; Offside offence; and Offside sanction.
A player is in an offside position if "he is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent", unless he is in his own half of the field of play. A player level with the second last opponent is considered to be in an onside position. Note that the last two defenders can be either the goalkeeper and another defender, or two ordinary defenders. Also note that offside position is determined when the ball is touched/played by a team-mate - a player's offside position status is not then altered by subsequent runs by players of either side.
It is important to note that being in an offside position is not an offence in itself.
A player in an offside position is only committing an offside offence if, "at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team", the player is in the referee's opinion involved in active play by: interfering with play; interfering with an opponent; or gaining an advantage by being in that position.
Determining whether a play is in "active play" can be complex. A player is not committing an offside offence if the player receives the ball directly from a throw-in, goal kick or corner kick.
FIFA issued new guidelines for interpreting the offside law in 2003 and these were incorporated in law 11 in July 2005. The new wording seeks to more precisely define the three cases as follows:
- Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate.
- Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
- Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or crossbar or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.
The referees' interpretation of these new definitions is still proving controversial till this day, largely over what movements a player in an offside position can make without being judged to be interfering with an opponent.
The sanction for an offside offence is an indirect free kick to the opposing team, from where the offence occurred.
In enforcing this law, the referee depends greatly on his assistant referee, who generally keeps in line with the second last defender in his relevant end.
The assistant referees' task with regards to off-side can be difficult, as they need to keep up with attacks and counter attacks, consider which players are in an offside position when the ball is played (often from the other end of the field), and then determine whether the offside positioned players become involved in active play. The risk of false judgement is further enhanced by the foreshortening effect, which occurs when the distance between attacking player and the assistant referee is significantly different from the distance to the defending player, and the assistant referee is not directly in line with the defender. The difficulty of off-side officiating is often underestimated by spectators. Trying to judge if a player is level with an opponent at the moment the ball is kicked is not easy: if an attacker and a defender are running in opposite directions, they can be two metres apart in a tenth of a second.
Free kicks are of two types:
- Direct Free Kick
- Indirect Free Kick
Direct free kick is most probably rewarded to a team if the opponent's player touches the ball with his hands or arms (unless he is the goalkeeper within the penalty area) or fouls a player on the other team. An indirect free kick is usually awarded for an infraction of the rules, not necessarily aimed at a player of the opposing team. Direct free kicks are allowed to go into the goal with only one person touching the ball.
Indirect free kicks are indicated by the referee raising his arm from the time the foul is awarded until it is first touched by a player other than the taker of the free kick. If a shot from an indirect free kick goes into the opponents' goal without having been touched by another player, no goal is scored and a goal kick is awarded to the defending team. A difficult concept for many to grasp is advantage, a player may foul another player and yet a foul may not be called if that players team does not lose the advantage. An example would be if a player was knocked down in the course of passing the ball to the team mate who scored.
A penalty kick is the kick rewarded to a team whose opponent's player commits a foul inside its own box for which the sanction is a direct free kick. The ball is kept at a spot marked 12 yards from the centre of the goal. No player other than the penalty taker is allowed within 10 yards of the ball until it has been struck: the goalkeeper is the only other player allowed in the penalty area during this time, and he may not advance from his line until the penalty has been taken. The taker cannot touch the ball again until another player has touched it. A goal is rewarded if the ball goes in the net.
If the ball leaves the field of play at the side-line, play is restarted with a throw-in (or throw-on). The thrower must have both feet on the ground, outside of the playing area, and must throw the ball from behind his head with two hands. A goal is not scored if the ball is thrown into the goal from a throw-in without it touching another player.
If a member of the other team is the last person to touch the ball before it crosses the goal line or if the ball enters the goal directly from a goal-kick, throw in or indirect free kick, a member of the defending team restarts play with a kick from inside the area marked by a line 6 yards from the goal. The ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area.
If a member of the defending team is the last person to touch the ball before it crosses the goal line or if the ball enters the goal directly from a goal-kick, throw in or indirect free kick taken by the defending team, a member of the attacking team restarts play with a kick from the quarter circle at the corner of the pitch nearest to where the ball left the pitch.
For more information on the basics, see FIFA Laws Of The Game