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If you've watched the World Cup, you may have marveled at the fitness and skills of these elite players.

How can they run and run and run for so long? What makes them so good at quick changes of direction? Is there a certain body type that is bio-mechanically perfect for soccer?

Of course, much of the brilliant playing is due to natural talent combined with years of hard training and practice. But there are certainly a number of physical attributes that help enormously in being able to play football at this level.

Different Functions for Different Positions

There is no perfect body type for this sport; a lot depends on the position you play in.

For example, a Centre-back can benefit from extra height so that he can defend against aerial balls in the penalty area.

The midfielder, on the other hand, leads the ball less often, but needs a lot of mobility and to direct incredible distances in the game - most cover more than 10 kilometers, with sprints and changes of direction. Here, lighter body mass really helps, and it means not being too big. If you are tall - even if you are thin - weigh more so that it may be a drawback for these players.

And being shorter means that our center of mass is lower so that we have more stability and a better balance. These faster technical skills easier with the ball and management. There is one fairly consistent physical trait in all footballers that seems to be similar in male and female players: the ability to run and run.

Upper Body, Lighter; Lower Body, Strong

Football players are generally not stocky like rugby players. But while their upper bodies are fairly light (which saves mass and helps with speed), they generally have fairly large and strong legs.

This is because changing direction quickly and accelerating and decelerating almost instantly requires some force. You need muscular legs for that.

On the other hand, having a broad upper body would mostly be a disadvantage with little benefit. There is no significant requirement for upper body strength in this sport, so if you want to increase speed and endurance you need to maintain a lighter upper body mass. They don't train to get really big in their upper body.

They also generally have very low body fat content, as they require a lighter body mass to run, jump and accelerate.

And the goalkeeper?

One position that benefits greatly from height is the goalie. Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer used his height of 1.95m to his advantage. And most elite goalkeepers are over six feet tall.

The goalkeeper's job is to jump vertically and laterally. Having long legs can help the goalkeeper jump higher and farther as he can propel himself a greater distance while jumping. And having long arms helps in reaching toe or catching the ball. So being tall can be a real plus.

All in all, these players are well built to deliver elite performance at the top level of the game. While years of hard training have certainly contributed to their success, they can also thank their parents for the genes they inherited.

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