How To Play Football

Learn how to bet and play on football by reading this article.

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Origins of Football

The objective of how to play football is to score goals and prevent the opposition doing the same. The sport is played in keeping with some basic rules which are followed worldwide in the amateur and professional game.

Football is the most popular sport in the world and there are more members of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) than the United Nations. The appeal of the sport and how to play football is its simplicity and basic scoring system. Football is the most played sport globally and important matches around the world attract huge television audiences. A national team is representative of the population. Football is one sport that can break down divisions and even countries embroiled in civil war or internal disputes get behind a common cause when the national team plays. Following a club team is a badge of loyalty and for some people in the world the sport brings escapism from their concerns. Football is the world’s favourite sport and originated from the separation of rugby football and association football (soccer) in England in 1863. The Football Association of England (the FA) was formed and it became the first body to govern the sport. However, kicking a ball with the foot had been taking place for many years before the FA was formed. From the second and third centuries there is evidence of the Chinese military controlling a ball with their feet and evidence of how to play football. Greece, the Far East and Japan played games along the lines of football but England is where the modern game was invented.

Pitch and Equipment

Not all football pitches are the same size. The length of the playing area must be between 100 yards (90 metres) and 130 yards (120 metres). The width must be 50 yards (45 metres) and more but 100 yards (90 metres) or less. Football pitches are rectangular in shape and the lines are known as touchlines on the longer side and goal lines at each end. The lines must be no more than 5 inches (12 centimetres) wide. For international matches the dimensions have been standardised. The goal line extends from one corner flag to the corner flag on the opposite side of the pitch. The goals are located in the middle of the goal line. They consist of two upright posts, a horizontal crossbar and netting in the goal. The posts are 8 yards (7.32 metres) apart and the crossbar is at a height of 8 feet (2.44 metres). Before the crossbar was invented in 1875 a string tied from one post to the other marked the top of the goal.

The dimensions of the field influence how to play football. The goal area and penalty area are two rectangular boxes at either end of the pitch. Goal kicks are taken from within the goal area and fouls in the penalty area result in a penalty-kick. The penalty area extends 18 yards (16 metres) from the goal and the penalty spot is 12 yards (11 metres) from the centre of the goal. Penalty kicks are taken from the penalty spot and when they are taken only the attacking taker and defending goalkeeper are allowed inside the penalty area. The centre-circle and halfway line mark the midpoint of the pitch and where the kickoff at the start of each half and after a goal is taken. Corners are taken from a small arc around the corner flag and opposing players cannot stand within 10 yards (9.15 metres) of the flag.

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The most important piece of a equipment in football is the ball which must meet certain regulations. The ball is round or spherical and made of leather or something similar. The circumference is between 27 inches (68 centimetres) and 28 inches (70 centimetres.  The ball weighs anything from 14 ounces (410 grams) to 16 ounces (450 grams). If the ball bursts during play it must be replaced with another ball

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Scoring System

One of the beauties of football and how to play football is the simple scoring system. The objective of the game is to score goals and the team that scores the most goals wins a match. In Cup competitions if the scores are level after 90 minutes and injury time the match is extended by a further 30 minutes, in two halves of 15 minutes of play. If the scores are still level a penalty shootout takes place whereby each team takes five penalty kicks and the team that converts the most wins the match. If scores are tied after this process sudden death penalties take place and one miss followed by a conversion means the team that scored progress to the next round of a competition. In rare cases some other elements of the game are used to determine the winner of a match and affect how to play football.

Other Key Events

There are other events that influence how to play football. Goals scored determine the match winner and are usually the only element of a scoring system. However, for any match other key events are a guide to which is the better team. A side can outscore the opposition in all the areas but if they score fewer goals the match is lost. Goals alone count towards the match result but the following events can influence the progression of a match and the number of goals scored by each side:

  • Shots on target
  • Number of accurate passes
  • Shots that miss the target
  • Fouls committed
  • % of ball possession
  • Caught offside
  • Bookings
  • Sending offs
  • Corners
  • Passes

Possession, corners and shots are generally related to goals scored but sometimes anomalies occur by which the team that are outscored in these areas score the most goals and win the match. Discipline is controlled by issuing red and yellow cards by the referee who polices the game.

Football Rules

The simplicity of the sport of football is indicated by the small number of football rules. Basically there are 11 football rules regulations that control the most popular game in the world. Here are the basic rules of football:

  • A match is played over two halves of 45 minutes either side of a 15 minute break
  • Each team has 11 players at the start of a match which includes one goalkeeper who is allowed to play the ball with his hands within the boundaries of the penalty area. A team must have at least seven players and when injuries and sending-offs take the number below seven the match is stopped
  • The field is made of natural or artificial grass with boundaries and lines as described above
  • The ball must be circular and within the circumference listed above
  • Match squads total 18 players and 3 from 7 substitutes can enter the game when a player from the same side leaves the pitch
  • The referee is the chief arbiter of the match with help from two assistants and two more in certain competitions
  • Extra time is played in knockout matches when scores are level after 90 minutes
  • If the two teams are still tied a penalty shootout takes place
  • The whole ball must cross the goal line for a goal to be scored
  • Bad discipline such as fouls or ungentlemanly conduct results in bookings (yellow cards) and sending offs (red cards)
  • When the ball leaves the field on the side of the pitch a throw-in is taken by the team that did not touch the ball last. Goal kicks and corners ensue when the ball goes over the goal line

The Offside Rule

Offside is a part football rules that causes great debate. A team can score a goal and the goal is not allowed if an offside offence has taken place. These decisions are often marginal so sometimes the assistant make the wrong calls and this leads to dissent on the field and discipline in the form of a yellow or red card. The players that score what they believe is a legitimate goal feel aggrieved when the goal does not stand because the officials believe an offence has taken place. Once an offside decision has been made a goal cannot be awarded after being disallowed.

An offside call is made when the attacker is in front of the defender deepest on the pitch when the ball is played but not when it is received. This distinction makes for marginal calls and human error. The football rules law is designed to provide a disincentive for players to loiter near the goal waiting for a scoring opportunity. To be onside a player must be level or behind the last defender when playing towards the goal. It is not possible to be offside in a player’s own half and the goalkeeper does not count as a defender. If for some reason that player is further up the field beyond the attacker two defenders count towards the offside law.  Some commentators say the offside rule should be scrapped but benefits are unclear. Attackers could just stay near the goals and the whole process of scoring goals would change.

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Futsal

There are several sports related football played around the world such as American Football, Aussies Rules, Gaelic Football and rugby football. These sports have different fields and rules and variety of techniques to score goals or points. Futsal is fundamentally the same sport but played indoors on a smaller court. The objective is to score more goals than the opposition. Futsal is named as a shortened version of futbol sala which translates to room football. The playing area is much smaller than a football field and there are five players on each side, including four outfield players and a goalkeeper.

The football rules of futsal in terms of fouls, the ball leaving the playing area and the scoring of goals mirror those of conventional football. The ball is smaller and harder and the court is confined. As space is at a premium and it’s a game of attack and defence controlling and passing the ball are key skills. Some professional players in regular football have a background in futsal. The best international sides are Spain and Brazil and their international teams for football are amongst the best in Europe and South America. Their domestic leagues are the best in the world in terms of the quality of the play and the ability of the players. Ronaldinho is a great player who represented Brazil in football in the World Cup. He developed his ball skills playing futsal in the Brazilian league and other internationals developed their technique playing futsal.

One of the attractions of futsal is the number of goals. Matches are played over two halves of 20 minutes but the clock is stopped when the ball leaves the playing area. In European leagues the average number of goals is about eight per match but that average is two goals higher in the main leagues in Brazil and Argentina. Substitutions are unlimited and the goalkeeper can play as an outfield player. The goal is left unguarded but it becomes five against four if one team requires a late goal to force a draw or win a match. The result is often a goal for the attacking team or a break from their opponents and a shot into an empty goal. Goals increase towards the end of a match because players tire and are less able to move from attacking to defending areas of the court.

Leagues

Professional and amateur football is organised into leagues. Teams play each other on a home and away basis. A win earns three points, a draw is worth one point and losing teams pick up no points. League tables are organised in order of points won. When two or more teams have won the same number of points the team with the better difference between goals scored and conceded appear higher in the standings. If that figure is the same goals scored is the next criteria used to determine relative positions in a league table. League positions have been based on goal average in the past but the current format of goal difference and goals scored provides an incentive to attack and try to score.

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The basic format including football rules in leagues is the same all over the world. The most lucrative and watched professional league in the world is the English Premier League. There are 20 teams in the EPL who play each other twice in the season on a home and away basis. Each team plays 19 fixtures at their own stadium and 19 on the road. The top four teams qualify for the Champions League, the next two usually get into the Europa League and the bottom three sides in the table at the end of the season are relegated into the Championship which is the second level of English football.

Leagues have the same points system and structure in the professional and recreational game. The first awarding of three points for a win in the 1980’s has made for more progressive pay. The point’s difference associated with a win and a draw provides an incentive to play for a victory. Tactics and strategies have changed over the time due to the extra rewards from winning a match. All leagues and groups in major tournaments are now based on three points for a win and one point for a draw. Goal difference and goals scored to determine standings are now applied in all leagues and groups. These regulations encourage attacking football but defensive tactics are still seen in some fixtures when circumstances dictate.

Cups

Other football matches are played in a Cup format which means a knockout structure. In all Cup competitions a draw is made to determine which team plays at home and which team plays away. The winning team progresses to the next round where they meet another winning team. Sides are progressively eliminated until two teams remain and they contest a final. Some draws are predefined in that teams can project their opposition in subsequent rounds and other Cup competitions have a draw after each round of matches. Tied fixtures are decided with a replay and extra time and then penalties. In Cups giant killers are teams from a lower division who beat better opponents. These take place because over 90 minutes one incident can be crucial. Shock outcomes are less likely over a 38 match league season.

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The most famous Cup competition in the world is the FA Cup in England which is named after the Football Association. One of the major attractions of the FA Cup is the meetings involving non-league clubs and clubs from the main four professional leagues. In early rounds matches tied after 90 minutes are replayed. The semi-finals and final matches are played at Wembley Stadium and are decided on the day with extra time and penalties if required. The FA Cup winners qualify for the following seasons Europa League. Despite giant-killings in early rounds the winners of the FA Cup are usually one of the elite such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.  Qualifying for the lucrative Champions League is a bigger priority than winning the FA Cup so some of the big clubs play weakened teams in early rounds.

Tournaments

Major tournaments bring together the best international teams in the world. The biggest and most prestigious is the World Cup as this is a global event. Each continent has its own tournament such as the European Championship, the Africa Cup of Nations and Copa America. The continental championships bring together the best nations in each continent. Rivalries are intense such as in South America where Brazil and Argentina are great rivals. The rivalry is less fearsome in Europe but England are always keen to beat their neighbours like Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

The European Championship is played every four years and never coincides with the World Cup. The present format involves 24 teams who play each other on a round robin basis in six groups. There are three points for a win and one for a draw. The current format means eight of the 24 qualifiers are eliminated at the group stage. The top two teams in each group progress and the four teams in third place with the best record. The knockout stage involves a predetermined draw and matches in the round of the last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final. The final of the European Championship is played at the national stadium of the host country. In 2020 the European Championship will be played in 13 venues across Europe and there will not be one host. The semi-finals and final are being played at Wembley in London.

Tactics and Styles of Play

Despite different formations football is basically a sport of attack and defence. The team in possession of the ball tries to score goals and the opponents try to prevent goals by defending their area and goals. With 11 players on each side various formations include 4-4-2, 3-4-3 and 4-3-2-1 exist. Football is a fluid sport and teams can lose shape when a goal is required or the opponents are looking for an equaliser or winning goal. Some teams are better at attacking and others excel in defensive areas. Teams play with width and wingers or full backs who attack deep into the opponents half from the wings. Sides that are good passers try to dominate the midfield and create space through intricate moves. Modern players are fitter and more adaptable to match circumstances and the pace of play is faster than in the past. Coaches focus more on tactics and effective methods of play and an organised defence can limit better opponents to few scoring chances. In whatever way football teams approach the objective the sport is always about scoring more goals than the opposition and that has applied since 1863 when the sport was invented in England.

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