Before football matches they usually show the formations of both teams, including who plays where, on TV.

As far as I am aware, according to the rules teams only have to provide the names and shirt numbers of the 11 players (+subs) they field.

So supposedly it only is know who will play, but not in what formation or where each player will play within that formation. This makes sense, because a formation can change at any moment, while the line up itself won't.

So how does the broadcasting TV channel and commentators know those details?

  • Do the teams usually give out this information to the media? Wouldn't that be a tactical disadvantage?
  • Or does the media just guess the formation?

The latter seems most logical, but from what I can tell it is almost always correct (for Bundesliga matches at least), even when unusual choices are made for a match. Today one team put five defenders on the pitch, but one of them ended up playing as a midfielder. The media announced this correctly when showing the line up.

2 Answers 2


It really depends on the manager. In Belgium I've seen managers give their full line up including exact positions in pregame interviews, while in other games they would even leave a spot open until right before kick off.

So, sometimes they know it exactly. Other times they may have to make an educated guess. When TV broadcasters show the team they already know the eleven/twenty-two names and their analysts need all they need to know most of the time. Even most supporters will put the eleven names in the right position if given.

For most games, most teams do not change their basic tactic too much. A team that has played 4-4-2 for their whole season would for instance not switch to 5-4-1 suddenly. If such change was in the cards, the analysts would also know. It's their job. The manager might also just say defender X will play in midfield today. It's not that uncommon in case of injuries etc.. There's not always need for secrecy. He'll just say it in most cases in a pregame interview.


This is an easy one.

The formation is infered, of course. The teams are obliged to give the starting lineup and the substitutes alignment, with names and shirt numbers.

That's it. All the rest is infered by the media and the opponents, given the knowledge about the players' characteristics.

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