Often, you'll hear the primary attacking player(s) for a team called striker(s) or center forward(s). While in some cases, these terms are used interchangeably, the two describe two different styles of player and should be used accordingly.
A Striker is a true attacking player; they constantly push play into the attacking half and are looking to score. While most strikers at the highest levels bring an all around game to the pitch, many will be slotted into two buckets:
- Strong back to net strikers are players who are comfortable turning their back to the opposition backline to fight for space for passes or balls lobbed to them from their own defensive half. These players tend to excellent targets for on set pieces.
- Pacey strikers are players with elite speed who try to use this acceleration to get in behind the opposition backline for through balls.
Many strikers will be in some middle ground between these two, with world-class players able to play both styles of striker.
A Center Forward is a player who, like a striker will be try to push play into the attacking half and look to score, but often are playing with multiple attacking players (such as in a 4-3-3) and thus not the focal attacking point, or as a false nine for their team's attack.
As a false nine, the center forward will be in the same position as a striker would, only to drop back towards midfield to open space for wingers, attacking midfielders or fullbacks to get in behind the backline. These center forwards can shoot, but are also excellent passers. Robert Lewandowski is the classic example of a true center forward, but more recently, Olivier Giroud performed this role for France in their 2018 FIFA World Cup win.