Soccer is a unique democratic sport that operates in terms of impartiality because it accommodates both tall and short players.
The beauty of the sport is seen when one chooses to trace the history of the best professional players the game has ever had. There seems to be a place for both tall and short athletes in its Hall of Fame.
The average height for soccer players in the world is 182 cm. In a research survey, it was discovered that 62 clubs, out of an extract of 572 clubs, still retain players shorter than 180 cm. In this article, we’ll be exploring every reason and circumstance that supports the relevance of height in soccer.
- Does Height Matter In Soccer?
- Why Does Height Matter In Soccer?
- Why Does Height Not Matter In Soccer?
- Exceptional Short Players From Barcelona
- FIFA National Teams
- When Does Height Matter In Soccer?
- What Is A Good Height For A Soccer Player?
- Is Height An Advantage In Soccer?
Does Height Matter In Soccer?
Yes, height matters in soccer although it operates on different levels due to the position of the players. As a striker, you can either be as tall as Peter Crouch (six-foot, seven inches) or short as Sergio Aguero (five feet, eight inches).
For instance, Crouch showed great benefits of being tall as a soccer player when he played for both Liverpool and Stoke City.
He utilized his height for his team by scoring many headers because he was above the height of any center defender. His feet scored fewer goals, on the other hand, all thanks to the height he attained.
However, that wasn’t the same for Aguero. His short height gave him a competitive advantage in the attacking third.
He developed a perfect pace and dribbling skill that helped him maneuver his way through his opponent. Therefore, he was able to score more goals and became a headache for tall defenders who couldn’t catch up with him.
Why Does Height Matter In Soccer?
The way soccer is designed, tall players can have an advantage at some point in the game. The positions in soccer include the goalie, defender, midfielder, and forwards and we’ll be analyzing why height matters for each position.
Goalies in soccer are usually the tallest among other players. The average height of a goalie is around six foot two inches. The minimum height for most of today’s professional soccer goalies is six-foot but there are records of them as tall as six foot seven inches.
Notable mention here is Belgian goalie Thibaut Courtois. According to the UEFA Demographic Study of Footballers in Europe, goalies are 5.2 cm taller than defenders, 9.2 cm taller than midfielders, and 6.8 cm taller than forwards.
With a standard goal post width at 24 feet and a height of 8 feet, a goalie’s height should be such that can cover and protect the goal at all times. Height matters to goalies because:
- Blocking shots is easy with their larger bodies.
- Longer arms and legs – associated with tallness – allow them to cover all angles more easily.
- They have more reach and are better able to catch high balls.
- They create an impression to strikers that there’s little space for a goal with their larger bodies.
Even though being tall as a goalie is a huge advantage, Casillas, at just six-foot, was able to make history as one of the best goalies in the sport. He was agile and flexible enough to save balls that were played on a ground level, however, he had some shortcomings (pun intended) enjoyed by only taller goalies.
Fun Fact: the shortest goalkeeper in professional soccer was Pedro Benítez of Paraguay. He had a height of five foot five inches. He was the goalie for the Paraguayan team in the 1930 FIFA World Cup.
Also known as center backs, they are expected to be tall and strong to withstand tough attacks from the opponent due to the importance of their position. These players are responsible for protecting the goalie from dangerous strikers.
They can use their height during aerial battles to deflect the ball away from the goal post with their heads. During situations of corner kicks, free kicks, and crosses are when their height is used as an advantage.
A good example of a tall center-back defender is French soccer player Pape-Alioune Ndiaye of SCR Altach, standing tall at six-foot-eight inches.
However, players like Fabio Cannavaro (five-feet nine-inches), Ivan Cordoba (five-feet eight-inches), and Carles Puyol five-feet ten-inches) are notable examples of short defenders who still performed exceptionally in their position. They have higher speeds than taller defenders and can run faster when they possess the ball for a counter-attack.
Midfielders are the players that control the center of the field and they can attain a height of 5 feet, 10-3/4 inches. They are versatile players who can play both defensive and attacking roles. They can run back to support their defenders, with their height as an added advantage, during corner kicks and freekicks and also go for a header in the opponent’s goal post.
They also possess strength due to their multifaceted role. Some defensive midfielders like Nemanja Matic are strong and tall. He has a height of six-foot-four inches and he uses his strength and height for the benefit of his team.
N’golo Kanté of Chelsea on the other hand is shorter than Matic. He is five feet six inches in height, yet uses his pace to gain the ball from his opponent and pass to his teammates.
Forwards, also known as attackers and strikers. The taller ones utilize their height and great strength to create a header.
A perfect example is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has a height of six-foot-five inches, possesses strength, exceptional dribbling abilities, and is good at using his head.
Other worthy mentions showing tall height variations of strikers are Romelu Lukaku (six-foot three-inches), Olivier Giroud (six-foot four-inches), and Peter Crouch (six-foot seven-inches). The list cannot be complete without mentioning the super talented Cristiano Ronaldo, with height measuring six-foot one-inch.
While height can often be seen as an advantage, most of the world’s decorated soccer players have a smaller body build. Due to their playing positions on the pitch and their amazing talents, these short strikers have made a huge impact in professional soccer.
Unarguably one of the best to have ever played the game of soccer, Lionel Messi makes the list with a height of five-foot-seven inches. Neymar comes in at five-foot-nine inches and Kun Aguero at five-foot-eight inches.
They possess high pace and fantastic dribble abilities. What they lack in header capabilities, they sure do make up for it with their feet control.
Why Does Height Not Matter In Soccer?
Basketball as a famous sport is known for its exceptionally tall players. The nature of the game gives taller players an amazing advantage – there are not many places for short aspiring basketballers.
Fortunately, soccer doesn’t discriminate against a player’s ability based on height because it has bred the best players in history who are short.
Lionel Messi, Pele, and Maradona are short players who have taken soccer by the horn and left a mark. However, the following are valid reasons height doesn’t matter in soccer.
Greater agility and ball control
Since soccer allows the ball to be played on the ground most of the time, short players can utilize this to their advantage. They are agile, possess incredible ball control, and are fast to maneuver at will with the ball.
They also engage in distributing passes that frustrate taller opponent’s defenders who might be slow and find it hard to compete with them on that level.
Barcelona, ranking as one of the shortest teams, has mastered and proven that height is no guarantee for soccer mastery. Famous for the tiki-taka style of play – involving short passes in quick succession – shorter players can control play as long as the ball stays on the ground.
Possibility of being a great athlete
The benefits attached to short players allow them to display their talent and intimidate taller players. Since they can outrun taller players and get away with it due to their strength, they have a better chance of becoming great players.
Moreover, their height makes them almost impervious to stroke. They can survive the hurdles and demands of soccer, especially the match duration which is sometimes over 90 minutes of gameplay.
Short soccer players have a lower center of gravity that gives them greater balance and stability to withstand falls. They can still maintain their balance with ball control during desperate situations in their opponent’s goal post and manage to shoot the ball while staggering.
If you’ve ever watched Peter Crouch try to navigate his way through a defense by dribbling, you’ll notice the struggle and how easily he’ll be brought down.
Lionel Messi, on the other hand, will perform the same maneuver with ease – not taking his skill and talent into account.
Exceptional Short Players From Barcelona
A lot of legends have emerged from Barcelona who would fall into the short player category and had proven to the world that height doesn’t matter in soccer. The following are some of them.
Maradona is the shortest player in Barcelona history with a height of five-foot-four inches. He is a legend to reckon with as far as soccer is concerned. He shared the FIFA Player of the Century accolade with another player.
Maradona possessed an amazing skill that made him stand out among his contemporaries with ball control, pace, passes, and spilling prowess. With a low center of gravity, he was able to outrun his opponent in a jiffy.
He is second to Maradona with a height of five-foot-five inches. Romario is a Brazilian government worker who just earned national recognition as a professional soccer player.
He is often regarded as the greatest player of all time, thanks to his clinical finishing. Romário was a member of Brazil’s World Cup-winning team in 1994, winning the FIFA Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.
Pedro is also among the legendary short players of Barcelona with a height of five-foot-six inches. He played for Spain and Chelsea as a forward/winger and scored lots of goals.
At 13, Messi had growth deficiency but that didn’t hinder him from topping the world of soccer. He is five-foot-seven inches. The Argentine played for Barcelona as a forward and Paris Saint-Germain F.C. in France.
Messi has won several Ballon d’Or awards. He also bagged himself with six European Golden Shoes and other trophies and titles for Barcelona.
Eusebio shares the same height as Lionel Messi. Eusebio Sacristán, known simply as Eusebio during his prime years, is a retired Spanish soccer player who served as a key midfielder and now works as an administrator.
His seasons and years spent with Barcelona were exceptional. He proceeded to be an assistant coach for Barcelona and coach for Celta, Barcelona B, Real Sociedad, and Girona.
FIFA National Teams
Just like clubs have players with different heights, the same is seen at the national level. At the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup, Japan was ranked the second shortest team with an average player height of five-foot-ten inches.
Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia ranked number one as the shortest with an average player height of five-foot-nine inches. What team was ranked as the tallest in the tournament? Serbia! They had an average player height of six-foot-one inches.
Do you still need further proof that height is only an advantage in soccer if you know what to do with it? Serbia was kicked out of the tournament at the Group stage in a 2-0 loss to Brazil.
When Does Height Matter In Soccer?
During aerial duels and tackles, and also ball control. For a goalie, being able to reach farther with outstretched hands to guard his goal post against an attacking shot. It also offers an advantage to reach out for aerial tackles to deflect the ball from the head of an opponent.
For defenders, aerial plays are a serious threat to the defensive line. Since they’re not allowed to use their hands to touch the ball, taller defenders can reach for the ball with their heads and deflect it away from the goal area before making contact with an opposition player.
Since midfielders play both attacking and defensive styles of play, height becomes an advantage to quickly take possession of the ball and distribute accordingly as needed. With longer arms, throw-ins are more effective to reach teammates deep in the field of play.
Strikers are positioned to score goals. As long as there’s no hand contact with the ball, expect them to use other available body parts to deflect the ball into the opposition goalpost.
Taller strikers not only have longer legs to skillfully push the ball into the goal, but they have also better reach for a good header.
What Is A Good Height For A Soccer Player?
There’s no perfect height that is responsible for the success of a soccer player. Lionel Messi doesn’t need to be tall to be a great player. Cristiano Ronaldo on the other hand is quite taller than Lionel Messi, yet he’s also known as a living legend of soccer.
However, Richard Witzig, sports historian and author, gave an estimation of an average height for a soccer player in “The Global Art of Soccer”. He put it around five-foot-six inches to six-foot-two inches. This, in no way, prevents the abilities or success of players who don’t meet such height requirements because it’s just a notion.
Although having a tall player in your team can be at an advantage in aerial duels where they can use their head effectively. Moreover, they can also be active when the ball reaches the ground with their long legs.
Players like Lionel Messi would not necessarily struggle for aerial duels because of height disadvantage but expect them to position themselves in a way that, should the ball fall within their reach, they’re more than capable to do with it as any tall player would with aerial plays.
Is Height An Advantage In Soccer?
Being tall will benefit your team as a goalie, center-back, and center-forward as long as you know what to do with it and have the skills to match. Notable mention right here are some known advantages of being tall in soccer.
Great for a header
Tall players have a higher chance to win balls in the air than short players. When they go for a header, you can tell that it’ll be dangerous for the opponent. Peter Crouch, though with less strength, is more threatening during aerial balls and has scored more headers in the history of the Premier League. His height helps him jump less than shorter players.
At six-foot-seven inches tall, he is quite intimidating for any defender. To have a player like him on the team is a huge advantage for a header.
Longer legs and adroitness
Tall players naturally have longer legs that can be used offensively and defensively to stop or convert crosses to goals. Controlling balls at great height is only applicable to tall players. Short players are deficient in that aspect, even if they are fast with more ground balance.
When playing a defensive role, tall players can stretch their legs to promote more tackles that could be frustrating to a short player who might find it as an obstacle.
They are strong
The taller a player, the more the possibility of being stronger. Although soccer players are muscular on a moderate level, it can make them appear stronger and more intimidating than shorter players. If tall players get too muscular, it will impede their pace and resilience.
That’s why it’ll be harder for strikers to break through the defense of a tall and strong defender. Moreover, the same applies to a striker who comes across as a tall and strong striker, who can score with both head and feet and dribble.
Tall players like goalies can reach higher heights towards saving a ball from entering the net. A short goalie will only be a liability to his team and create more stress for other players during this kind of circumstance.
This is where being tall comes as an advantage to a goalie. There’s no tall player with shorter hands. Bigger hands enable them to catch, punch, or parry shots from the opponent.
There are situations where goals have been averted by the tip of a finger of a tall goalie. A short goalie won’t even stand a chance in that kind of situation.
As a tall goalie, both hands and legs will be lengthy as well and they can be very useful to block shots from entering the net. A tall goalie with good shot power can kick the ball farther to his teammates for a counter-attack.
The same applies to defenders and midfielders trying to prevent a run or making a successful tackle. The legs can reach farther distances when the run is limited.
Height matters in soccer, although the position of each soccer player will determine its relevance. However, being a short player isn’t a disadvantage in soccer. There are numerous references for how effective shortness can help a player.
The same can be said for taller players. The style of play in soccer allows for different heights. Although being tall is not a necessity to play soccer, goalies, on the other hand, are preferred when they’re tall.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!