On this week’s main report we continue our look at the various positions on the pitch. This time, we spotlight the winger. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report.
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While the full back position was one often thought to be a position for someone who didn’t fit in anywhere else, simply a good solid defender, the winger, in contrast, has always been more glamorous and associated with speed and exciting running. Traditionally, wingers hug the sidelines and run at the opposing full back, hoping to take the ball past them and whip in a cross from the byline and into the box. To beat a player, wingers typically have pace and trickery, the more flamboyant may do some step-overs, while all are expected turn on the gas and take on the player in front of them.
Nowadays, with full backs now increasingly used as wing-backs, bombing forwards from deeper positions and overlapping the winger or midfielder, the winger is now expected to cut in more and attack the box themselves, perhaps with a shot from the corner of the box as they come in off the wing, or with a one-two with their team’s full back sending them into the box to pull back a short pass. Whatever their role, wingers are a key part of any team that relies on crosses coming in from wide areas, perhaps to a big centre forward.
So, who are some of the most famous wingers. As usual, the languagecaster list is not meant to be in any particular order, but these four give a fair reflection of football’s best wingers through the ages.
One of the most famous dribblers and right wingers in World Cup history, Garrincha played 60 times for Brazil and won two World Cups in 1958 and 1962. In the 1958 World Cup competition this is what one of his opponents, Wales’ left-back Mel Hopkins said: “He attacked with such pace and I believe he was more of a danger than Pele at the time – he was a phenomenon, capable of sheer magic.”
Perhaps Stanley Matthews typifies the traditional winger with his raw pace and ball control. Stoke City, Blackpool and England’s right winger was recognised for his skills when he won the first ever European footballer of the year award in 1956 and is part of Blackpool folklore after he dragged his team back from 3-1 down in an FA final to win 4-3 after he whipped in two crosses after beating the opposition left back that were converted by teammates.
Perhaps typifying what a modern winger should be, Real Madrid and Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldho is arguably one of the best wingers playing the game today. Although he doesn’t always stay wide, like a traditional winger, he possesses great ball control, a fantastic cross, the ability to go past a player with his trademark step-overs, and the ability to score from any position.
Approaching 900 professional games, Ryan Giggs, left winger for Man United and Wales is on the list simply because he has been playing at such a high level for so long. The Welsh Wizard’s pace in his early career meant he could go past most defenders, and over the course of his career he has adapted to the more modern focus for wingers by scoring important goals as an auxiliary forward coming in from the wing.
hug the sidelines: stay in a very wide area of the pitch, next to the sideline (the longest side of a football pitch)
whip in a cross: to cross the ball from distance; to cross the ball at pace, usually into an area between the penalty spot and the six-yard area
the byline: the line the goal stands on; the short side of the football pitch
the box: the penalty area; the area in front of the goal
trickery: skillful technique; dribbling skill etc
turn on the gas: accelerate; run very quickly
take on (someone): attempt to take the ball past someone, usually by dribbling or kicking the ball ahead and beating them for speed
wing back: an attacking full back
bomb forward: to run at speed down the wing (the side of the pitch)
overlap: go past your team-mate on the outside down the wing
cut in: quickly move from the side (the wing) towards the box (the goal)
a one-two: when two players exchange the ball as they move past an opponent (player A passes to player B, who then returns it to player A)