2018 World Cup Language: False number 9
Traditionally the main striker on the team wears the number 9 – he or she is the centre forward – and they lead the line by playing up front and in the middle. However, space in this area is often very difficult to find because the final third is full of defenders trying to snuff out attacks. In order to avoid the defence and find space sometimes a team will play with no centre forward at all but instead play a forward in a more withdrawn position and this is sometimes known as a false nine or false number nine. The advantage of this decision is that the opposition’s defence do not know who to mark and so may become confused, while the disadvantage of using this system is that the attacking team may lose their attacking focus or that they do not have enough players in the final third of the pitch.
Example: Leo Messi started the last 16 match against France in the 2018 World Cup as a false number 9.
- A report from our archives on football tactics (complete with transcript)
- An article from the Guardian newspaper explaining the role of the false number 9.