Association football, commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. It is the world's most popular sport.
The game is played on a rectangular field of grass or green artificial turf, with a goal in the middle of each of the short ends. The object of the game is to score by driving the ball into the opposinggoal. In general play, the goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms, while the field players typically use their feet to kick the ball into position, occasionally using their torso or head to intercept a ball in midair. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, either a draw is declaredor the game goes into extra time and/or a penalty shootout, depending on the format of the competition.
The Laws of the Game, published in England by the Football Association in 1863, remain the basis for the way the sport is played today. Association football is governed internationally by FIFA, which organises the FIFA World Cup every four years.
A goalkeeper saving a close-rangeshot from inside the penalty area
Association Football is played in accordance with a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game. The game is played using a spherical ball (of 71 cm (28 in) circumference in FIFA play), known as the football. Two teams of eleven players each compete to get the ball into the other team's goal (between the posts and under the bar), thereby scoring a goal. The teamthat has scored more goals at the end of the game is the winner; if both teams have scored an equal number of goals then the game is a draw. Each team is led by a captain.
The primary law is that players other than goalkeepers may not deliberately handle the ball with their hands or arms during play, though they do use their hands during a throw-in restart. Although players usually use their feetto move the ball around, they may use any part of their body (notably, "heading" with the forehead) other than their hands or arms. Within normal play, all players are free to play the ball in any direction and move throughout the pitch, though the ball cannot be received in an offside position.
In typical game play, players attempt to create goal-scoring opportunities through individualcontrol of the ball, such as by dribbling, 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 in possession of the ball; however, physical contact between opponents is restricted. Football is generally a free-flowing game, with playstopping only when the ball has left the field of play or when play is stopped by the referee for an infringement of the rules. After a stoppage, play recommences with a specified restart.
A goalkeeper dives to stop the ball from entering his goal
At a professional level, most matches produce only a few goals. For example, the 2005–06 season of the English Premier League produced anaverage of 2.48 goals per match. The Laws of the Game do not specify any player positions other than goalkeeper, but a number of specialised roles 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 keeppossession of the ball in order to pass it to the forwards on their team. Players in these positions are referred to as outfield players, in order to distinguish them from the single goalkeeper. These positions are further subdivided according to the area of the field in which the player spends most time. For example, there are central defenders, and left and right midfielders. The ten outfield players...