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World Cup 2010
Glossary of Football Words and Expressions
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
18 yard box
Another way to say PENALTY BOX
Abandoned match
A match that the REFEREE stops before REGULATION TIME (and sometimes before the game
starts), for example because of very bad weather, or a bad PITCH INVASION
Above the relegation zone
In a position that will mean that you don’t have to worry about being RELEGATED to a lower
DIVISION if you are still in that position at the end of the SEASON, e.g. the fifth team from the
bottom. Often used with a number of points, e.g. “Blackpool must be relieved now that they are
seven points above the relegation zone”
Putting the ball where you want to go, usually used about PASSes and SHOTs. Often used in
contrast to power.
Aerial skills
Being good at HEADing the ball
A short form of AFTER EXTRA TIME
After extra time
The score after 90 minutes plus an extra thirty minutes, because the score was EVEN after 90
Against the run of play
A goal scored when the other team seems to be doing much better, for example when most of the
play is in the other half of the pitch
Usually used to talk about the people who represent the players, e.g. during TRANSFER
Aggregate score
Calculated by adding the two scores together when teams play two matches, one at HOME and one
AWAY, for example in the SEMI FINALS
Used to show that the FINAL SCORE was a draw, e.g. “Two all” for “Two two”
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A stadium with no standing room on the TERRACES where everyone must sit down instead. All
British grounds in the top divisions have to be all-seaters due to safety concerns
Being able to predict what will happen next, for example where a STRIKER will try to score
Area (the)
The rectangular part of the pitch near the goal within which the GOALKEEPER is allowed to use
their hands to control the ball. More properly called the PENALTY AREA
Artificial turf
TURF made from man-made materials rather than the usual grass. It is easier to maintain but
difficult to play on and can injure players who fall on it
Assistant referee
The modern official name for a LINESMAN
Association football
The official name of football, to contrast it with rugby football. The informal form SOCCER is a
shortening of the word “association” in this expression
(1) Any player with the ball who is trying to move it towards the OPPOSITION’s goal (2) A striker
Usually means a failed SHOT AT GOAL
Automatic booking –
A YELLOW CARD or RED CARD that the referee has to give due to the rules, with no place to
make their own judgement on the matter, e.g. a LATE TACKLE from behind with STUDS UP
Automatic promotion
Teams who can go up to the next DIVISION without needing to go through a PLAYOFF match
with other candidates for PROMOTION, usually because they finished first or second in their
division at the end of the REGULAR SEASON
Away fans
SUPPORTERs of the team that is not playing at their own GROUND, almost always fewer in
number than the HOME FANs
Away goal (rule)
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
When the AGGREGRATE SCORE from HOME and AWAY matches is a DRAW (e.g. 2-2), goals
scored AWAY count more than goals scored at home and so can decide which team progresses to
the next round (in the example, the team who was playing at home in the second match because
they scored once away from home wins)
Away leg
When a TIE is played in LEGs at both teams’ GROUNDs, the match that isn’t played at your own
ground. The opposite of HOME LEG
playing away from your HOME GROUND at the ground of the OPPOSITION. The opposite of
Away strip
A second set of clothes (KIT) that teams use when teams play AWAY and their usual strip would be
too similar to that of the HOME TEAM, e.g. because both Liverpool and Manchester United play in
Nickname for the Italian NATIONAL SIDE, meaning “the Blues” due to the colour of their STRIP
B team
Another way to say RESERVES.
Back four
The DEFENDERs of one team
Back heel
Using the back of your foot to PASS the ball, or sometimes SHOOT
Back of the net (in the)
A goal, as a ball which goes into the goal is usually trapped at the back of the net until it is picked
Back pages
A nickname for the sports pages of a newspaper, due to their position in British and other
Bafana Bafana
The nickname for the South African team, meaning “The Boys”
Ball control
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Ball watching
Looking only at the ball and so not seeing where the other players are, especially the player who
you are trying to MARK
Balloon shot
A SHOT that went far too high
A long piece of cloth that has a message written on it and is usually supported at both ends by
poles. It is displayed by the crowd to support particular players, protest decisions by the
management, etc.
Beat the keeper
Score a goal
Win against another team
Typical mistak “SPURS won Aston Villa” should be “Spurs beat Aston Villa”e
Beautiful game (the)
Bench warmer
A player who is always a substitute and rarely used
Benefit match
A match where the profits go towards a charity or a player’s retirement
Bicycle kick
A shot in which the player flips their body over to SHOOT (or more unusually CROSS) by kicking
the ball while it is over their own head
Bid for a player
A team saying how much they would pay the team that a player has a contract with if that player
was to TRANSFER to their club
Big man
A tall player, often used for an attacker in a team that plays LONG BALL football
Big-money signing
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A player that the club had to pay a lot of money in TRANSFER FEES for
A common insult used for referees who have made a wrong decision, e.g. not seen a FOUL
Blues (the)
Nickname for English side Birmingham City, due to the colour of their HOME STRIP
A bad, probably embarrassing, mistake
Bobble (n/v)
Movement of the ball on the ground, e.g. due a PITCH that isn’t flat, that means that it doesn’t
move in a straight line and so makes it difficult to kick, TRAP or SAVE
Boo (n/v)
A noise made by the FANs to show disapproval
A very common short form of BOOKMAKER
Being shown a YELLOW CARD or RED CARD for doing something wrong, such as
A person or company who takes bets. In the UK, bookmakers will take bets on anything apart from
when someone is likely to die, so you could bet today on David Beckham’s son being in the
England team one day
Boot the ball
Kick the ball hard and far, perhaps without thinking about where you want it to go
Bosman (transfer)
A FREE TRANSFER of a player who has come to the end of their contract, possible due to a ruling
by the European Court of Justice on the case of Belgian footballer Jean Marc Bosman
Bosman ruling
Bottom half of the table
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
If there are 12 teams in a division, the lowest 6 teams at that time. This expression is usually used
to indicate that those teams are in danger of RELEGATION at the end of the season.
Bottom of the table
The 12th team in a twelve team DIVISION, likely to suffer a automatic DEMOTION to a lower
division if they don’t win soon
A hot drink made from meat extract that smells like gravy and is popular in English football
grounds, as it keeps you warm and alcohol is not available
Box (the)
Box to box
A move that quickly goes from near one goal to the other end of the PITCH
Two goals, usually by the same player, in one match. One less than a HAT TRICK
Bring someone down
Tackle someone so that they fall on the ground. Often, but not always, a FOUL
Bury the ball (in the net)
Score a goal
An appearance for a team, e.g. the NATIONAL SIDE. Often used to express the number of times
that a player has played for one side, e.g. “David Beckham got his 100th cap for England last
A player who is given responsibility for organising the other players on the pitch
Captain’s armband
A piece of fabric worn around the upper arm that shows who the CAPTAIN of each team is. If the
captain is SUBSTITUTED, this is passed to another player.
YELLOW CARDs and RED CARDs given for breaking the rules of the game. Often used to show
how badly one or both sides broke the rules during the match, e.g. “Last night’s match produced a
record 12 cards, including 4 red ones, for the two sides”
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Carrying (the ball)
A GOALKEEPING walking more than three steps while holding the ball
Being told by the REFEREE that you are doing something wrong. Usually followed by a
YELLOW CARD or RED CARD if you do the same thing again
Central defenders
The one or (usually) two DEFENDERS who play near the middle of the PITCH rather than on the
Central midfield
MIDFIELDERS who play near the centre circle rather than on the WING
Centre circle
The circle in the centre of the PITCH, with a 10 yard radius centred on the CENTRE SPOT. The
KICK OFF takes part at the centre of this, with players from the opposing side staying outside this
circle until the whistle for kick off is blown.
Centre forward
The FORWARD who plays nearest to the goal and so is often the TARGET MAN
Centre half
Another way to say CENTRAL DEFENDER
Centre spot
The point right in the middle of the pitch where you KICK OFF from
The businessman who organises the business side of a football club, often someone who owns the
club or has invested a lot of money in it. Higher up the chain of command than the MANAGER, but
much less involved in the day to day running of the club
Champions’ League - the European Champions’ League.
The most prestigious competition in Europe, where the top teams from each national league play
against each other in GROUP and KNOCKOUT stages
Change ends
At HALF TIME, the teams have to switch which goal their GOALKEEPER plays in and so which
goal they will try and score in (to avoid advantages from things such as wind direction and a
sloping pitch)
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Changes at half time
SUBSTITUTIONS that happen during the 15 minute HALF TIME break
Changing rooms
The place where the players change into and out of their KIT, take a shower etc. Also LOCKER
Songs that SPECTATORS sing or shout during the match, often based on other songs and
supporting or making fun of a particular player
Charity Shield
The normal and informal way of saying the FA Community Shield (from its old name), a one off
match played between the previous SEASON’s winners of the LEAGUE and FA CUP in England
and so therefore theoretically deciding on the best SIDE in the country
Chip also “chip shot”.
A shot that is hit high in order to bend over the GOALKEEPER’s head and go into the goal
Clean sheet
Not letting any goals in, often used to describe how well a GOALKEEPER or DEFENCE is
playing, e.g. “Peter Shilton kept a clean sheet for 15 matches”
Clean sweep
Winning all the TROPHIES that it is possible to in one season
Clean tackle
Taking the ball from someone without it being a FOUL
Getting the ball away from your own goal, e.g. by kicking it far away towards the other goal
Jump to HEAD the ball
Closing minutes/ Closing seconds
The last few minutes or seconds of a match, often with one side desperately attacking to make up
Club side The opposite of INTERNATIONAL SIDE
The team that players usually play for, in contrast to the NATIONAL SIDE.
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Often confused with MANAGER, as a modern football manager has a job similar to a coach in
earlier times, and newspapers often use the terms as synonyms. A coach is often someone between a
manager and a TRAINER, and deals with practical things connected to play, whereas a manager
takes a more strategic role connected to picking a team, tactics etc.
Coaching staff
The non-playing parts of the team, such as the COACH and masseurs
Coin toss
Comfortable on the ball
Coming back from injury
playing or training after missing some matches due to injury,
Someone on radio or TV who explains the action to listeners or viewers
Competitive match
The opposite of a FRIENDLY, in which the points gained actually count towards
Concede a goal
A goal being scored against your team. The opposite of score a goal.
TRAPping and DRIBBLing
Also “Corner kick”
A DEAD BALL situation in which you kick the ball from the spot on the corner of the pitch near
the OPPOSITION goal, usually as a CROSS. Collocations
Awarded a +, Take a +
Corner flag
The piece of fabric on a pole that marks the CORNER
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A medical condition in which it becomes impossible to move a muscle and it becomes stiff and
painful, often used by not drinking enough liquids or not doing STRETCHes before playing
Cross (n/v)
The ball being kicked from the WINGS towards a player, usually a STRIKER, near the
The piece of wood that goes horizontally across the top of the goal, supported by the two POSTs.
“The ball hit the crossbar” usually means that it was nearly a goal.
Win easily, or seem to be winning easily when something surprising happens
Cup champion
The opposite of a LEAGUE CHAMPION, a team that has won a CUP COMPETITION
Cup competition
A competition that includes or entirely consists of a KNOCKOUT competition. The opposite of a
Cup tie
A match in a KNOCKOUT completion, often contrasted with more important LEAGUE matches
Cut (the)
When it is decided which of the players won’t be on the TEAM SHEET for the forthcoming match
or championship, e.g. when a World Cup coach leaves out seven players of the original list of thirty
in order to only take 23 to the championship
Cut infield
A WINGER coming away from the TOUCHLINE and towards the PENALTY BOX
D (the)
The normal colloquial name for the PENALTY ARC, which players must stay outside while a
penalty is being taken
Dangerous in the air
Likely to score goals with his head
Dangerous position
A FREE KICK which is likely to lead to a goal, for example because it is near the goal or the
attacking side has a DEAD BALL SPECIALIST
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Dead ball
A situation in which play has stopped and so the side which has the ball can take their time about
how and when they move the ball into play, e.g. a penalty or corner. Some teams spend a lot of time
planning and practising these situations.
Dead ball specialist
Someone who is particularly good in DEAD BALL situations, especially someone who is very
good at FREE KICKs
The first time a player plays for a particular side or at a particular level, e.g. “He must be very
nervous to have his international debut at the age of 17”
A goal or match which settles which team will win, e.g. one which gives one side an
What the referee decides, for example whether a player was OFF SIDE and so whether a goal
should be DISALLOWED or not
Points taken off a team’s total for the season (so far) for breaking the rules, for example illegally
TAPPING players, bribing REFEREEs, going bankrupt, or THROWING a match
Defend a lead
Stopping the other team scoring to even up the score, for example defending when it is 1-0 to your
team at HALF TIME or when the score is 2-1 to your team after the FIRST LEG
A person whose main role is to stop the opposition’s attacking players from scoring and getting the
ball near their goal
Defensive midfielder
A midfielder whose main role is to PLAY DEEP or SHIELD the defenders, i.e. whose main duties
are defensive
Defensive wall
see WALL
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
The number of goals or points that a team is behind. Collocations Make up the +
A SHOT AT GOAL hitting a player that is in the way and so changing route, often making it harder
to SAVE and so causing a goal
Deliberate hand ball
Most HAND BALLs just involve the ball accidentally hitting someone on the hand or lower arm,
but players sometimes try to use their hands or arms to CONTROL the ball. See HAND OF GOD
for a famous example
The same as RELEGATION. The opposite of PROMOTION. Being forced to go down to a lower
DIVISION because you finished the SEASON
A match between sides who play in grounds that are close to each other, for example in the same or
neighbouring towns
Direct free kick
A FREE KICK that will count as a goal if it goes into the NET without touching any other players.
The opposite of INDIRECT FREE KICK.
Dirty match
A match that has many FOULs and so probably many CARDs given in it
Dirty team
A team that FOULs the other team a lot, or even aims to injure people
Disallowed goal
The time when the ball goes INTO THE NET but the referee says it was not a goal, for example
because a player was OFFSIDE
Disciplinary record
How many YELLOW CARDs and RED CARDs a player has got, recently or over their career
Arguing too much with the referee, for example after a CARD is given. This can lead to a RED
CARD or other punishment.
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A player pretending that they have been FOULed and falling over so that they can get a FREE
KICK, PENALTY or even a BOOKING for a player on the other team. This is an offense and will
lead to a CARD for the attacking player if the REFEREE decides that it is a DIVE rather than a
Diving header
A header of a LOW CROSS, meaning that the player’s body is nearly horizontal when they make
contact with the ball and that they usually land flat on the ground
Division champions
The team at the top of the TABLE at the end of the SEASON. The division champions of the top
division, e.g. the English PREMIERSHIP, are LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, and the division
champions of lower divisions are usually PROMOTED
Usually 12 to 16 teams who play each other twice during a SEASON to see which team will be
DIVISION CHAMPIONS, which teams will get a PROMOTION and which teams will get a
RELEGATION, for example the English PREMIERSHIP
Domestic double
Winning two different competitions in your own country, e.g. the FA CUP and the LEAGUE in the
same season
Domestic football season
The part of the year when teams play in competitions in their own country, often with tours to other
countries beforehand and with European and other international finals afterwards
Things in your own country, contrasting with international, European etc
(1) equal scores at the end of a match (2) picking which teams will play against which in a
Dreaded vote of confidence
A chairman saying that he has complete confidence in the manager or coach, “dreaded” because it is
almost always followed by being fired
Dressing room
The place where the players get changed before and after a match. Also CHANGING ROOMS and
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Controlling the ball with your feet as you run
Drop back
Players playing for a while closer to their own goal than usual, e.g. to defend against an attacking
move or to DEFEND A LEAD
Pretending you are going to move one way so that you can GO PAST by moving in the other
direction, or the same with kicking the ball. Also FEINT
Early bath
An amusing way of saying a RED CARD, because you will go back to the LOCKER ROOM
before the other players
Losing a match and going out of a KNOCKOUT COMPETITION, or losing a match and so not
being able to get enough points to PROGRESS to the NEXT STAGE
Engine room
Similar to a PLAYMAKER, but often used about a player who has that impact due to running and
hard work
A goal which makes the scores EVEN, for example going from 2-1 to 2-2
Both teams having the same score during a match, e.g. being 2 ALL (2- 2) at HALF TIME. Often
confused witha DRAW, which is the score at the end of the match being equal
Executive box
A luxurious area in which the chairman of the club, rich businessmen etc can watch the match and
socialise in comfort
Exposed at the back
Problems in defence, usually because of players being too close to the OPPOSITION goal, but also
possibly due to injuries to the first choice DEFENDERS
Extra time
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Play continuing after the REGULATION TIME of 90 minutes because the scores are EVEN and so
the winner is not yet decided. GOLDEN GOAL is a particular kind of extra time.
FA (The)
The (English) Football Association, the English member of FIFA, in charge of all divisions below
FA Charity Shield
FA Cup
The most prestigious CUP COMPETITION in England. Unlike the LEAGUE CUP, NONLEAGUE SIDES can also play in this competition
A supporter of a particular club. Although fan comes from the word FANATIC, their modern
meanings are very different.
Someone who is too obsessed with a particular team, an extreme FAN
A magazine (usually more like a newsletter) written by and published by fans, often critical of the
club management and sold by people in the street outside the stadium before a game
Far post
The post that is furthest away from the person taking a SHOT at goal
The team that most people think will win
The International Federation of Association Football (French: Fédération Internationale de Football
Association), in charge of international football such as the World Cup. Pronounced as it was one
word, like “feefer”
The last match of a CUP COMPETITION, deciding who the champion is
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
SHOOTing, usually used to talk about how well a player does so
A slang way of referring to a gang of football hooligans
First half
The first 45 minutes of match (plus INJURY TIME), followed by a break
First leg
When which team wins will be decided after two matches, usually HOME and AWAY (e.g. the
Champions’ League SEMI FINALS), the first of the two matches which is played is the first leg
First team
Another way to say SENIOR TEAM
First touch
(1) Being able to quickly control the ball when it comes to you, e.g. being to PASS it without
needing to TRAP it first (2) The first time a player kicks or heads the ball after coming into the
match, e.g. “After coming on as a SUBSTITUTE, Owen scored the EQUALISER with his first
touch (of the ball)”
Five a side
A form of football with only 10 players in total on the pitch, which is usually smaller than a
Fixture list
A list of all the games that a team will play during a season and which ones will be AT HOME or
Flag post
The (traditionally wooden) post which marks the corner and has a fabric flag on it
Flair player
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A player who is very skilful, for example being able to DRIBBLE, GO PAST MEN or do the
BICYCLE kick. Often used to suggest that the player isn’t so reliable or won’t do boring things like
Another way to say WING
Flat back four
The defenders playing in (more or less) a straight line. The opposite of the SWEEPER system
Like a DEFLECTION in that the ball isn’t deflected much from its original route, but deliberate
and usually with the foot or head
Lights that mean play can continue when it would otherwise be too dark
A lucky goal or save, for example the ball going off your bottom INTO THE NET
Follow a team
Support a particular SIDE
Football kit
Football pitch
An informal British way of saying football, more popular in the UK than the expression
“SOCCER” since Brits realised that Americans always use “soccer” (“football” in the USA
meaning American football)
How the players are arranged on the pitch, e.g. FOUR FOUR TWO
A more official way of saying STRIKER
Four four two
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Fourth official
A referee who watches the match on TV and can be asked to look at SLOW MOTION REPLAYs to
make a difficult decision, e.g. whether the ball CROSSed THE LINE
Free kick
Similar to a PENALTY, but with the ball further from the goal. Collocations Awarded a + , Take a
Free transfer
A player moving from one team to another without the new club needing to pay TRANSFER
FEES, for example as a BOSMAN TRANSFER at the end of their contract
A match that is just for practice or charity. The opposite of a COMPETITIVE MATCH
From 12 yards
From the PENALTY SPOT (12 yards is the distance from the goal to the penalty spot).
Full backs
Wider defensive players, in contrast to CENTRAL DEFENDERS
Full international
A match with NATIONAL SIDE that is COMPETITIVE, i.e. not a FRIENDLY. This expression is
often used to show that a player has reached the top level of the game, e.g. “Roberts never expected
to play his first full international at the age of 34”
The GOALKEEPER not catching the ball properly, often leading to a goal
A slang way of saying “boss”, often used for a MANAGER
Game in hand (a)
When two or more teams are equal on points but one team has played one fewer match and so
might have more points when they have played that game, they are said to have a game in hand
Game of two halves (a)
A clichéd expression to say that games often change in the SECOND HALF, for example because
of something the COACH has said, a change in tactics, or a SUBSTITUTION
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The nickname for PAUL GASGOIGNE, a creative but troubled former England player
Start to work well as a team, similar to form a good RAPPORT
Get on the scoresheet
A player who hasn’t scored yet scoring their first goal, usually used about one match but sometimes
for a whole season
Get the nod
Be chosen to play in a match, as if the players were standing in a line and the manager was
choosing them one by one by nodding his head to indicate a player or say yes
Giant killers
A team that has BEATen a team from much higher in the LEAGUE, e.g. a NON LEAGUE TEAM
beating a team in the PREMIERSHIP and ELIMINATING them from the FA CUP
Gifted players
Often “Naturally gifted players”. Very skilful and creative players. Often used about people who
waste their talent.
Give the ball away
For example, PASSing the ball to a player from the other team, being too easy to TACKLE or
losing the ball while trying to DRIBBLE. A very negative expression, more so than LOSE THE
Go down
Go in front
Take the lead, for example go from 1-1 to 2-1
Go past someone
DRIBBLE the ball around someone so that you end up closer to their goal than they are
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Go the right way
A GOALKEEPER guessing which way a SHOT will go and so diving in the right direction. Often
used for PENALTIES.
Go the wrong way
The opposite of GO THE RIGHT WAY
Go top
Reach first place in the DIVISION during the SEASON
Go up
(1) The rectangular opening consisting of a horizontal CROSSBAR supported by two BARs,
usually with a net behind. (2) Kicking the ball into the goal of the other team
Goal area
Official name for the SIX YARD BOX
Goal celebrations
The way in which players show their enjoyment at having scored a goal, e.g. dancing, embracing or
pulling your shirt over your head. These are often individual to certain players or decided on before
the goal is scored, but some goal celebrations such as over-long ones can be an offense
Goal difference
When two teams have an equal number of points in a league, which one is further up the TABLE is
decided by which has a better total from adding up all the goals they have scored and then taking
away all the goals scored against them, e.g. “Chelsea and Birmingham have the same number of
points, but Birmingham are FAVOURITES to win the LEAGUE due to a much better goal
difference of +22”
Goal fest
A game with lots of goals, e.g. 6-4. The opposite of a NO SCORE DRAW
Goal hanger
An insulting term for a player who rarely goes back into their OWN HALF but instead stays very
close to the OPPOSITION goal, mainly used in schoolboy football as they would often be
OFFSIDE in professional football
Goal kick
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A DEAD BALL situation in which the goalkeeper is allowed to kick the ball from the spot without
being tackled, usually due to the ball going behind the GOAL LINE off a player from the other
team, but also sometimes in place of a FREE KICK
Goal line
The line that goes through the GOAL and to the two corners, often mentioned when it is
controversial whether the ball went into the GOAL or was SAVEd
An common informal way to say GOALKEEPER.
A player who is allowed to use their hands to save the ball from going into the goal. They have to
wear a different shirt from the other players, and usually wear gloves.
Goalless draw
The area very near the goal, especially right in front of it, and so an easy place to SCORE from
A longer but less common way of saying the (traditionally wooden) POST at the side of the goal
Golden boot
The reward for the most goals scored by one player in a season, e.g. in the Champions’ League
Golden generation
Used to describe lots of great players who just happen to be born in the same country at more or
less the same time, perhaps shown by winning a YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP, e.g. “Now that the
Portuguese Golden Generation is aging, this is perhaps their last chance to win the World Cup”
Golden goal
A kind of EXTRA TIME where the match only continues until the next goal, at which time the
team that scored it wins, with the other team having no chance to score an EQUALISER
A more common way to say stadium
Group match
A game in the early stages of a competition that finishes with a KNOCKOUT STAGE for the final
etc but has teams playing in a mini-league at the beginning, like the World Cup. E.g. “England
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
thought they were joint FAVOURITES to win the European Cup, but now it seems they will be
lucky to win any of their group matches”
Group of death
A group in which has no clear FAVOURITEs and so all the teams have a good chance of getting
enough points to go through to the next round and therefore the task is very difficult for them
Group stages
In a competition that finishes with a KNOCKOUT stage, the earlier stages in which several teams
play each other in a mini league format to see which teams get enough points to progress to the next
stage (usually the top two teams)
Gunners (the)
Nickname for English side Arsenal, as “arsenal” means a place where guns are stored
(1) Kicking at other players’ legs, often used for someone who is trying to get the ball but is so
unskilful that they often FOUL people, but also for deliberate fouls (2) Kicking at the ball in a more
hopeful than skilful way.
Hairdryer treatment (the)
A COACH shouting at his team at HALF TIME if they are losing, used because you can imagine
the air from their shouting mouth being like a hairdryer going over your face
Half time
The 15 minute break after the first (approximately) 45 minutes of play
Half volley
Kicking the ball after it has just hit the ground and so hasn’t really had time to bounce, making it
look similar to a VOLLEY and similarly difficult to kick well
Hammer the ball home
Kick the ball very hard and score a goal
Hammers – Nickname for the English side West Ham
Hand ball
A FOUL in which the ball hits the hand or lower parts of the arm. Collocations deliberate +,
intentional +
Hand of God
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
The goal which Maradona scored against England in the World Cup by lifting his hand above his
head, named after his famously false statement after the match that it was the head of Maradona but
the hand of God
Handling outside the area
A GOALKEEPER using his hands outside the area near the goal where he is allowed to, leading to
a FREE KICK for the other side
Hat trick
Three goals by the same player in the same match
Head in – Score a goal with your head
Using your head to control the ball, e.g. in trying to score a goal. Typical mistake heading shoot x
Often used to talk about a team who don’t have excellent skills but still win or DRAW through
determination, good teamwork, hard work etc.
Rich, successful, big and/ or historic sides. The opposite of MINNOWS. From boxing, as if a
flyweight boxer was asked to step into the ring with a much bigger and heavier fighter.
Holding midfielder
Home advantage
Being more than usually likely to win a match due to playing at your HOME GROUND
Home defeat
Losing a match at your own stadium
Home fans
SUPPORTERs of the team who is playing at their own stadium
Home ground
The stadium of your team
Home grown players
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
(1) Players who came up from the YOUTH TEAM rather than being bought from other teams (2)
Players from the country they are playing in, the opposite of foreign players
Home leg
A match at your own stadium whose score will be added to a match in your opponent’s stadium to
decide who wins.
Home nations
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as the UK is the “home of football”
Home strip
The football KIT that a team usually uses and is famous for, e.g. black and white stripes for
Home team
The team who are playing in their own stadium
A “football FAN” whose main aim is violence
Host a championship
Have a competition in your country, city or stadium, e.g. “South Africa is hosting the 2010 World
A really bad piece of play, for example a FUMBLE by the GOALKEEPER or missing a SITTER
Hugging the touchline
Playing very WIDE
Impact sub
In form
Having a particularly productive period. Often used for STRIKERs who have been scoring a lot of
goals recently.
In front
“Two goals in front” is the same as “A LEAD of two goals”, e.g. 4-2
Indirect free kick
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A FREE KICK which must hit another player before it goes into the net in order to count as a goal.
Usually a lesser punishment that a DIRECT FREE KICK
Injury time
If the match has to stop while injured players get back up, are treated or are STRETCHERED OFF,
the time this takes will be added onto the end of the FIRST HALF or the end of the match, meaning
that an average match is actually 93 minutes rather than 90 minutes
Take the ball which someone from the other team was trying to PASS to their own player
A less common way to talk about the HALF TIME BREAK, only usually used by journalists
Into the net
Into the goal
Kicking the ball without moving your foot very much
A football shirt
Keep the ball in play
Stop the ball going over the white TOUCHLINE at the side of the PITCH and so not need to stop
The normal informal way to say GOALKEEPER
Kick off
The start of the match, in which the team who won the COIN TOSS can kick the ball first from the
Kick off time
The time the match will start, traditionally 3 o’clock in the afternoon
Use your foot to hit the ball
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A player who controls the game, usually a MIDFIELDER
Also “Football kit”. The normal word for the clothes that footballers wear.
A slight injury from colliding with another player
Knock the ball down
Head the ball down to the ground so you or another player from your team can kick it, usually so
that they can SHOOT
Knockout competition
A championship in which the team which loses is out of the competition and doesn’t have another
chance to play. The opposite of a LEAGUE
Knockout round
The part of a competition in which the team who loses is out and doesn’t have another chance to
play, e.g. the SEMI-FINALS. The opposite of a GROUP ROUND
Kop (the)
The nickname for some stands that are built on a slope, most famously the liveliest STAND at
Liverpool’s GROUND Anfield
Last ditch tackle
A TACKLE which will cause the attacking player to be in front of goal with only the
GOALKEEPER to beat if it fails
Last gasp goal
A goal in the last few moments of the match, often used for an EQUALISER or a goal that gets the
team points that they absolutely must get, for example to avoid RELEGATION. The literal meaning
of “last gasp” is your last breath of air before you die
Late tackle
Trying to TACKLE a player after they have already SHOT or PASSed the ball to someone else, and
therefore knocking into them rather than the ball. An offense, often leading to a CARD
(1) How many goals a team is ahead during the game, e.g. if the score is 3-1 the HOME TEAM has
a lead of two goals (2) How many points a team is ahead in the DIVISION
League champions
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
The top team of the whole LEAGUE (meaning the top team in the top DIVISION) at the end of the
season. Usually the most prestigious title in the country
Leave the goal wide open
A GOALKEEPER standing in a position that makes it easy to score, for example being too close to
one POST
(1) Finding it easier to kick with your left foot, similar to being left-handed but not always going
together with that (2) Using your left foot to SHOOT, usually used about a right footed player using
A goal which makes the scores EVEN, e.g. going from 2-1 to 2-2. An informal way to say
Lift the trophy
(1) Hold the TROPHY above your head to show it to the fans (2) Win the competition
The traditional name for the two ASSISTANT REFEREES who run up and down outside the
SIDELINES, rather than around on the pitch like the REFEREES. Linesmen often decide if a player
is OFFSIDE or if the ball has gone OUT OF PLAY
Linked with
“Steven Gerard has been linked with Real Madrid” means that there are rumours about him joining
that club
Letting one of your players play for another club, sometimes because you hope to sell them later
and sometimes to give them practice
Locker room
Lockout match
A match in which no FANs are allowed, for example because there was problems with violence or
racist CHANTing in the last match
Lone striker
A FORMATION in which only one player stays close to the OPPOSITION goal
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Long ball game
A traditional British tactic in which the ball is kicked high along the length of the pitch to be
headed, rather than passed through the MIDFIELD
Looping cross
A CROSS which goes high, therefore going over DEFENDERS. The opposite of a LOW CROSS
Lose on penalties
Be EVEN after EXTRA TIME, but then score fewer penalties than the other side and so lose the
game. England have done this more at the World Cup than any other team ever.
Lose the dressing room
Lose the confidence of the players or start to have a bad relationship with them. Used about a
manager, usually to explain why he is being sacked.
Low cross
A CROSS which stays close to the ground, for example for a DIVING HEADER or VOLLEY
Low shot
A SHOT which stays close to the ground, often meaning that the GOALKEEPER has to dive far to
their right or left to reach it
Magic sponge (the)
When players were in pain, a trainer used to come out with a bucket of water and a sponge.
Amazingly, this often lead to the player getting up and starting to play again, hence “magic”
Magic spray
A modern version of the MAGIC SPONGE
Majority of possession
Your players having the ball more than the other team. See POSSESSION
Man on
Shouted to tell someone that they are in danger of being tackled
Man short (a)
Playing with ten men, because one player received a RED CARD
Man to man marking
A system in which each defender is given one attacking player from the other team that they have
to stay close to. The opposite of ZONAL MARKING
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Traditionally, someone who is in charge of picking a team, deciding on tactics, and buying and
selling players, one level higher in management than a COACH.
Staying close to an attacking player to make sure they can’t get the ball or can’t PASS or SHOOT if
they have it
Match fit
Fit and healthy enough to play in a COMPETITIVE GAME. Often used negatively for a player
who was injured and has recovered but hasn’t trained enough to be able to play effectively.
Match of the Day
Traditionally the most popular English football show on TV
Match winner
The goal that meant that your team won the match, e.g. the goal that took the score from 2-2 to 3-2.
CollocationsBe responsible for the +. Also “match winning goal”
Midfield anchor
Midfield diamond
A formation in which the four MIDFIELD players play with two side by side and the other two on
their own in front and behind
A player who plays near the centre of the pitch, between the DEFENDERs and the STRIKERs
Not near the top or bottom of the DIVISION
Mid-table obscurity
A team that is always in the middle of the DIVISION, e.g. because they often draw, and are
therefore never in the dramatic situation of being likely to be PROMOTED to a higher division or
RELEGATED to a lower one
A small or weak team, named after a small fish that is common in British ponds
Misdirect a pass
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Misplace a pass
PASS the ball to the wrong place, e.g. to an OPPOSING player or to somewhere the player it is
meant for can’t possibly run to
Mistimed tackle
Trying to tackle someone before or after they have the ball, usually leading to a FOUL. Usually
Short written form of MATCH OF THE DAY
Movement off the ball
Moving around even when someone else has the ball, e.g. MOVING INTO SPACE so that
someone can pass the ball to you
Moving into space
Running into a place on the pitch where there are no OPPOSITION players, making it easy to pass
the ball to you
National side
A common expression for the NATIONAL TEAM. The opposite of CLUB SIDE
National stadium
The usual venue for CUP FINALS, INTERNATIONAL MATCHES etc, e.g. WEMBLEY in the
National team
The team that represents the whole country, e.g. the teams that compete in the WORLD CUP
Near post
The post nearest to the person who is going to SHOOT, PASS, take a CORNER or take a FREE
The mesh that is almost always put behind the goal, connected to the CROSSBAR and POSTs then
connected to the ground in some way behind. Often used to talk about scoring a goal, e.g. “in the
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
The material that the NET at the back of the goal is made from. Often mentioned to say that a
CROSS hit the side of the goal, meaning that “hit the netting” which is bad thing, is very different
from “GO INTO THE BACKOF THE NET”, which is a goal
Neutral venue
A stadium that is not the HOME GROUND of either side, used because there has been crowd
violence or because the political situation makes it impossible to play in one of the home grounds
Make sure that a threatening team or player is actually not a danger, e.g. by good MAN TO MAN
MARKING or by using the right FORMATION
Next round (the)
The part of the championship that you will progress to if you win a match, e.g. the SEMI-FINALS
if you win the QUARTER FINALS
Niggling fouls
Very small fouls, which are more likely to annoy than to lead to a YELLOW CARD
Niggling injury
An injury that is never very painful and doesn’t completely stop you from playing, but means you
can never play to your best
The normal British way to say “zero”, as in “two nil” for 2-0
Nippy –Able to run quickly
No score draw
The final score being 0-0. Sometimes jokingly called a “no score bore”
Non-league side
In England, teams which are lower than the Second Division and so cannot play in the LEAGUE
CUP until they are PROMOTED
Kick the ball through the legs of a player
Deliberately standing somewhere to stop a player from running where they need to go. An offense,
likely to lead to a FREE KICK
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How likely you are to win a match, e.g. “The odds are against SPURS winning the next match in
their league campaign”. From betting.
Off his line
Used to explain that a goalkeeper is far from his own goal, making it easy for a STRIKER to CHIP
the ball over his head. Collocations Caught +, Standing +
Off target
Not towards the goal, so that it wouldn’t go in even if the goalkeeper wasn’t there.
CollocationsShots +, + shot, +0 attempt
Off the ball
While the other player doesn’t have the ball, for example SHIRT TUGGING just to annoy another
player or to stop them RUNNING INTO SPACE
Official supporters’ club
A SUPPORTERS’ CLUB organised by the football club
Offside rule
The rule that aims to stop GOAL HANGING by forcing players to receive the ball further towards
their own goal than the opposing side’s defenders. Not understanding the offside rule is often stated
as proof of women not really appreciating football.
Offside trap
Defenders running forward to force the opposing striker into an OFFSIDE position and so making
sure the game is stopped and they get POSSESSION. If this tactic goes wrong it usually leaves the
striker only needing to beat the GOALKEEPER to score.
On a yellow card
Having to be careful not to FOUL anyone etc. because you already have a YELLOW CARD (in
that match or a previous match) and so will have to miss the rest of that match and/ or the next
match if you get another yellow card
On paper
“It’s a good team on paper” means that theoretically it should be a good team (but often that it isn’t
actually that good, for example because the players don’t get on with each other)
On target
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Likely to lead to a goal if no one gets in the way, i.e. going towards the goal
On the bench
A SUBSTITUTE who does not play from the beginning of the game but might later. Collocations
Starting +, Stuck +. See BENCHWARMER.
On the break
Scoring on the break means scoring while most of the players are in the other half of the pitch, for
example because the other team has had most of the POSSESSION and done most of the attacking
One touch football
A style of play in which players very quickly PASS the ball
Open play – The opposite of a SET PIECE
Open talks
Start negotiating with a player or team about purchasing someone
Opening goal
The first goal of the match, making the score 1-0 or 0-1
Opposition (the)
The most common way to talk about the team that you are playing against
Other side (the)
Another way to say the OPPOSITION
Out and out striker
Someone who purely has the role of scoring goals, rather than TRACKING BACK for defence or
Outfield players
Every player but the GOALKEEPER
There being more players from the other side on the PITCH or in a particular area of the pitch, e.g.
near your goal
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Not where you should be on the PITCH
Outside of the foot
The right side of your right foot or the left side of your left foot. Using the outside of your foot is
often seen a sign of skill
Over two legs
Two matches, HOME and AWAY
Own goal
The ball accidentally going into your goal off one of your own players, e.g. a failed BACKPASS
Own half
The half of the PITCH nearest to your goal
Park the bus (in front of the goal)
Pull all the players back to defend, usually to DEFEND A LEAD
Two players who play close to each other, e.g. two CENTRAL MIDFIELDERs
Kicking the ball from one player to another player on the same side.
Passing game
A style of play in which PASSing is the most important element, the opposite of LONG BALL
Penalty (kick)
Being able to try to score a goal in your own time from the PENALTY SPOT. This is used to
decide which team wins if the score is EVEN at the end of EXTRA TIME, or is used as a
punishment, for example for a FOUL inside the AREA. CollocationsBe awarded a +, Take a +,
Concede +
Penalty arc
The official (but rarely used) name for the D
Penalty box
The area near the goal in which the GOALKEEPER may use his hands and a FOUL will result in a
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Penalty shoot out
Penalties at the end of EXTRA TIME to decide which team will win
Penalty spot
The spot 12 yards from the goal from which PENALTY KICKS are always taken
A physical team or physical match is one in which there is a lot of reliance on physical force. Often
a euphemism for lots of FOULs
Small, like an old-fashioned British milk bottle. Used to describe players, especially STRIKERs
Pitch invasion
The FANs rushing onto the PITCH, for example to celebrate winning the match or to protest
against a decision by the REFEREE. This can result in the club being fined, or even the match being
The usual word for the area that football is played on. NB, “Football pitch” but “Tennis court” and
“Basketball court”. “Football GROUND” means the stadium, not just the pitch
Pivotal moment
A moment that changed the whole game, e.g. a goal which gave a team confidence, a RED CARD
or an injury.
Play deep
Playing closer to your own goal than is usual for that player or position, e.g. a STRIKER playing
behind another striker to help them
Play on
A signal from the REFEREE that the players shouldn’t stop to take a FREE KICK but instead keep
on playing, usually because they have the ball and are in a good position and so just as likely to
SCORE as they would be if they were given a free kick
Playing for a draw
Aiming to defend to keep the scores EVEN rather than taking a risk in order to win the game,
usually because one point is enough for you, perhaps because you won the FIRST LEG or because
you have a good LEAD in your DIVISION
Playing wide
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A more common expression for KINGPIN
A special match to decide something that hasn’t been decided by the normal matches, e.g. which of
the teams between third and sixth position in the division will be PROMOTED
Public Limited Company. A British company that anyone can buy the shares of, similar to an
American corporation. Many English PREMIERSHIP clubs are PLCs and so need to worry about
keeping their share price high and being taken over.
A way of betting on football results, similar to a lottery
(1) Where you play on the pitch, usually decided as part of a FORMATION (2) The name for the
position where you play, e.g. LEFT BACK
(1) Having the ball (2) How much of the match your team had the ball, often given as a percentage,
e.g. “Although Italy had 70% possession, they still could only manage a DRAW”. Collocations
The two poles at the edges of the goal that hold up the CROSSBAR, traditionally made from wood.
Collocations Rebound off the +, In off the +, NEAR POST, FAR POST
Post-match analysis
The time after the MATCH when the COMMENTATORs and PUNDITs talk about the match they
have just seen
Professional foul
A deliberate FOUL that is difficult for the REFEREE to spot or is meant to injure an important
player on the other side
Progress (v)
Go on to the NEXT ROUND
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Allowed to go up to a higher DIVISION, for example by being the top team in your division or
wining the PLAYOFFs
Pub side
A team that represents a particular pub in a local league, often a SUNDAY LEAGUE, and which
usually consists of regular customers. Used as an insulting way of talking about a bad professional
football side
Pull the ball back
A PASS or CROSS which goes somewhat backwards
A football expert, e.g. someone who analyses the match at HALF TIME rather than speaking all the
way through like a COMMENTATOR
Purple patch
Another way to say IN FORM, usually used about STRIKERs
Put it away
Score a goal
Qualifying rounds
Matches that you have to play to get into a championship, for example playing other teams in your
region for a chance to go to the WORLD CUP FINALS.
Quarter finals
The stage before the SEMI FINALS, where eight teams play a match (or often two TIEs) to decide
which four teams go forward to the NEXT ROUND
A chart showing which teams are most likely to win a championship, often used to make sure that
all the best teams are not put in one GROUP
How well players or a whole team understand each other, e.g. being able to ANTICIPATE each
other’s moves. Often used about an important PARTNERSHIP
Read a pass
Know where and when a PASS is going to end up
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Pronounced like “rey-al”, this is the usual way of referring to Real Madrid in English-speaking
countries. In Spain, Real Madrid is simply “Madrid” (Atletico Madrid being “Atletico”), while
“Real” is short for Real Sociedad.
Red card
The ultimate punishment, meaning that a player has to leave the PITCH for the rest of the game
and usually also miss future games
Red Devils
Idiotic nickname for Manchester United and the Korean NATIONAL SIDE
Reduced to ten men
Playing with only ten people in your team after a RED CARD, usually making it difficult to win
the game
A common short form for REFEREE
Reflex shot
A SHOT kicked with no time to consciously plan what you are doing, e.g. a VOLLEY
Reflex save
A save made without any time to plan, e.g. the GOALKEEPER diving in the wrong direction
during a PENALTY but sticking his leg up to save the ball
Regional championship
A competition between the best sides of the same continent or region, for example the European
Regular first-team place
Usually being picked to play in the SENIOR TEAM, the aim for most players
Regular season
The dates that most teams will have to play games, e.g. between September and April or May in
most European countries. The dates for PLAYOFFs, the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE final, WORLD
CUP etc are before or after this, so are said to fall outside the regular season
Regulation ball
A ball that has been certified by FIFA for use in official matches, and therefore good practice to
play with when the regulations are changed or if you want to play professional football
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Regulation pitch
A PITCH whose size is within the limits set by FIFA, and so good practice for top level football.
Similar to “Olympic size swimming pool” in swimming
Regulation time
90 minutes, to which INJURY TIME is added to decide on the actual length of the match
Being forced to go down to a lower DIVISION, e.g. due to being the bottom team at the end of the
SEASON or losing the PLAYOFFs
Relegation battle
(1) Have to make a great effort not to be RELEGATED (2) A match with another team who might
Relegation zone
The places in the TABLE which will mean being RELEGATED to a lower DIVISION or having to
go through PLAYOFFs to STAY UP, e.g. the last four teams out of a 16 team division
(1) Showing a part of the match again on TV (2) Playing the same match again, for example
because the original match had to be ABANDONED
Reserve team
A team of players who aren’t able to enter the SENIOR TEAM due to not being IN FORM etc, who
often play against reserves from other clubs for practice, sometimes in a dedicated league.
Start a match again which has been paused due to things like bad weather, the SPOTLIGHTS going
(1) The final score (2) Winning, e.g. “We didn’t play very well, but we were just happy to get a
Right wing
Playing on the right edge of the pitch (from your own perspective), near the TOUCHLINE
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The expression “We were robbed” is often used to say that bad refereeing decisions were they only
reason we didn’t win a match
Used to describe a DEFENSE that it is impossible to get the ball past, like trying to get through a
rock wall
Round robin play
Where every team plays every other team
Runners up medal
An award for the RUNNERS UP
up – The second placed team in a DIVISION or the losing team in a FINAL
Running off the ball
Stop the ball from entering your goal. Mainly used to talk about what the GOALKEEPER tries to
Score (a goal)
Put the ball into the OPPOSITION goal
Scoring opportunity
A chance to SCORE
A member of staff whose job it is to find new players for the club, for example by watching
matches in lower divisions and trying to spot good players (especially young ones) to buy
Scraped into
Only get just enough points to do things, e.g. only be above the team below by GOAL
DIFFERENCE, like a boat scraping over the rocks at the bottom of the sea or a bus scraping its roof
as it goes under a low bridge
Seagulls (the)
The nickname for the excellent but surprisingly little known English side Brighton and Hove
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Similar to an academic year for a university, e.g. “The 2008-2009 season ran from late August 2008
to May 2009”.
Season ticket
A ticket with which you can see all the HOME GAMES of your club, usually with one designated
seat number
Second half
The second period of 45 minutes of the game after the fifteen minute HALF TIME break.
Secure the services of
Have a player join your team, e.g. by buying them from another club
See out his contract
Play with one club for the year or two until your contract period comes to an end rather than
TRANSFERring to another club, either to retire when your contract comes to an end or to go to
another club on a BOSMAN (free) transfer and so increase your wages
Semi finals
The matches that are played after the QUARTER FINALS to decide which two teams out of four
will be in the FINAL
Sending off
Senior team
The top team within one club, the opposite of the YOUTH TEAM or RESERVE TEAM
Set play
Set up (a goal)
Pass the ball so that it is in a position where someone else on your team can score
Severance package
The money that a team has to pay a manager who is still under contract to fire him
Shielding the defence
A MIDFIELDER helping to defend
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Moving your hips in order to GO AROUND a player or as a FEINT
Shin pads
Protection for the bone at the front of your leg below the knee, worn under the socks
Shirt sponsors
Companies who pay for their company name to be printed on the team’s shirts
Shirt tugging
Pulling at a player’s shirt to restrict their ability to move. A minor offense.
Kick the ball towards the goal to try and get the goal in it and therefore score
Shoot out
The noun of SHOOT
Shots off target
The number of attempts at scoring goals by one team or player that wouldn’t have gone in even if
the other team hadn’t been there
Shots on target
The number of goals that a player or team would have scored if the defending team had not got in
the way
Using particularly difficult techniques like a BICYCLE KICK to entertain the crowd or show off
A team, e.g. “The MANAGER says he is finally happy with the side he has put together for this
Sign a player
Have a player join your team, e.g. by buying them from another club
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on fee – The money that a player gets when they TRANSFER from one team to another
New players, often bought from other clubs
Silky skills
Usually used to talk about skilful and apparently effortless PASSing and DRIBBLing
A way to say TROPHIES, only usually used by journalists
Sit back
(1) Relax (2) Stop attacking, like a person relaxing into a sofa
An incredibly easy shot, as if the ball is sitting there waiting for you to kick and score whenever
you feel like it. Often used to say that someone should have scored an easy goal but missed it.
Six pointer
A match where you are playing against your closest rival and therefore a win (3 points) for you is
also like taking another 3 points off them by stopping them winning and getting those points
Six yard box
The smaller of the two boxes around the goal
A fashion style with very short hair and often tattoos, tight jeans and Doctor Marten boots,
associated with hooligans and extreme right wing groups
An informal way of saying CAPTAIN
Sliding tackle
Trying to take the ball off someone by slipping along the ground towards them, easiest to do when
the PITCH is wet but often leading to dangerous play
Slot it in
Score a goal, usually meaning due to accuracy rather than power, and maybe meaning from short
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Short for “Association Football”, in contrast to “Rugby Football”. Used by American to contrast
with American Football, which they call “football”. Generally avoided by Brits nowadays, as they
hate sounding like Americans and so prefer the term FOOTIE
Soccer field
American English for FOOTBALL PITCH
Solo effort
A SOLO GOAL or close attempt
Solo goal
Scoring a goal without much help just before that time, for example GOING PAST several players
rather than just HEADING in a CROSS
Special One (the)
The nickname for Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho
Excitement and skill, the things that make a football match good to watch
Advertisers whose money goes to the team, e.g. SHIRT SPONSORS
Spot kick
A fairly common way of saying PENALTY KICK
The nickname for English side Tottenham Hotspurs, from the last syllable of their name. The
original meaning of “spurs” is the spiked things that horse riders wear on their shoes.
The players on a team
Straight across the pitch, not towards either goal
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Step on a player who is on the ground, usually meaning deliberately and quite hard, and so often a
RED CARD offense
One section of the stadium, e.g. one side of the rectangle. Often the four stands have different
names. See KOP for an example.
Starting appearance
Playing from the beginning of a match, usually one better than being ON THE BENCH at the
beginning of the game
Starting line up
The players who will be on the PITCH from the first moment of the game.
Stay up
Not be RELEGATED, usually used because it was assumed you would GO DOWN
Stoppage time
A more official way to say the INJURY TIME that is played at the end of a half of the match
Times when play is unexpectedly interrupted, e.g. waiting for injured players to get off the pitch or
get up and start playing again
A way of saying GOALKEEPER. Much less common than GOALIE and only usually used by
Straight to the arms of
A SHOT that is very easy to catch by the GOALKEEPER, without them even needing to move
their body
Stretchered off
Taken off the pitch on a kind of portable bed, usually because of a bad injury but also possibly just
due to CRAMP
Exercises that players do to make their muscles flexible before they start playing
An attacking player who plays near the opposition goal and whose main role is to score goals
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Another way to say football KIT
Things that stick out of the bottom of the sole of a FOOTBALL BOOT, stopping players slipping
but also sometimes causing injuries during TACKLEs
Studs up
TACKLING or trying to TRAP the ball with the sole of your boot pointing towards another player,
leading to a great danger of injuring another player and therefore likely to lead to a CARD
A player who starts the game ON THE BENCH and maybe exchanges positions with a tired or
injured player during the match
Summer signings
Players bought during the time when there are no championships in Europe, the most popular time
for such deals
Summer tours
European club sides visiting Asia, America etc to raise money and get match fit before the
beginning of the new season (usually in late August or September)
Sunday league
An amateur competition that is run on Sundays, for example one in which PUB SIDEs play against
each other. Often used as a simile to talk about bad play by professional teams
Super sub
A player who is ON THE BENCH but because they are likely to surprise the other team when they
COME ON rather than because they aren’t good enough to be the manager’s first choice
Supply line
(1) PASSes and CROSSes towards the STRIKERs (2) A player who provides those passes and
A more official way of saying a FAN
Supporters’ club
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A group of FANs who exchange information about the club, travel to AWAY MATCHes together
The time when a player cannot play for a team, for example because they got a RED CARD or
several YELLOW CARDs, e.g. “Davids is serving a two month suspension for a positive drugs
Swan song
The final match or competition of a player, usually one who has had a distinguished history.
A CENTRAL DEFENDER with more flexibility to move backwards and forwards than other
central defenders
Switch flanks
Move from the RIGHT WING to the LEFT WING, or the other way round
Table football
A pub game with plastic players that can be twisted around to “kick” a small ball into two wooden
Take the ball off another player, usually by kicking the ball that they are trying to DRIBBLE
Tackling back
Taking the ball off a player who just took it off you
Take the field
Come onto the PITCH, either at the start of a game or as a SUBSTITUTE
Tame shot
A SHOT with little force or kicked near to the GOALKEEPER. Similar to WEAK SHOT, but
usually used to criticize the goalkeeper, e.g. “A tame shot by Rooney somehow went between the
goalkeeper’s legs and into the NET”
Tap it in
Score a goal with a gentle SHOT
Tapping a player
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Illegal approaches to a player who is under contract with another club, as AGENTS and other clubs
have to ask the present club’s permission before talking to their players. The expression comes from
the idea of tapping someone on the shoulder.
Target man
A OUT AND OUT STRIKER whose only job is to wait for other players to pass the ball to them
and then score
Team sheet
The list of the STARTING LINEUP and SUBSTITUTES, often released as late as possible to stop
the other team knowing exactly which players they will be playing against
The speed at which the game is played
Ten men
How long a MANAGER or COACH stays in one job
Places in the stadium where there are no seats and so the fans have to stand. Often used to suggest
more enthusiastic supporters. There are no terraces in ALL SEATER stadiums
The top flight of...
The highest level, e.g. “The PREMIERSHIP is the top flight of English football”. Often used in
sentences wondering how good a player is, e.g. “Smith was the top scorer in the 2nd division last
year, but there are doubts whether he has the skills to be successful in the top flight”
There's only one...
A popular football CHANT, meaning that the player is unique (usually genuine, but sometimes
BEAT by a large margin, e.g. 6-0. The literal meaning of thrash is also similar to beat, as in “The
headmaster thrashed the boy for ten minutes for daring to call him by his first name”
Thread the ball
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Pass the ball between two opposing players, similar to putting a thread into the hole in a needle
Three lions
The coat of arms on the England football shirt
Through on goal
Past the last DEFENDER
Throw a match
Deliberately lose a match, for example because you have bet against yourself or because you want
the team you are playing against to get the points and so defeat another team that you want to be
ELIMINATED. A very serious offense that could lead to a team being RELEGATED
Throw in
Returning the ball to play by throwing it from the TOUCHLINE, usually because the ball has gone
off the pitch after hitting a player from the other team, but sometimes also in place of a FREE
KICK. The only time when a player other than the goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands in play.
(1) A DRAW (2) A match, e.g. “A home tie” or “A difficult tie”
Time added on
How long the match will be played after the REGULATION TIME of 90 minutes, mainly due to
play being stopped due to injuries during the match
Time wasting
A team who is IN THE LEAD or PLAYING FOR A DRAW taking a long time to take GOAL
KICKs etc so the other team cannot score. A BOOKABLE OFFENSE that could lead to a
Top four finish
Between first and fourth place in the league at the end of the season. Important in leagues where
the top four teams have a chance of being PROMOTED or can enter the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Top half of the table
For example, the top 6 teams in a DIVISION of 12 teams. Used to show that they could be
promoted, could have a TOP FOUR FINISH, or are in little danger of being RELEGATED
Top the group
The team with the most points from a GROUP STAGE, usually meaning that they can play a
second placed team from another group in the first KNOCKOUT STAGE. Not the same as GO
TOP, which can mean temporarily
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
When the referee flips a coin to decide which sides of the pitch each team plays in during the
FIRST HALF and which team KICKs OFF. Also (but less commonly) COIN TOSS
Touchline –
(1) The white line that goes all around the edge of the pitch, showing where the ball has to stay
inside if it is not to be a THROW IN, CORNER (KICK) or GOAL KICK (2) Often used to mean
the area where the coach sits during the game, e.g. “Instructions came from the touchline to switch
Toyota Cup
The traditional name for the match (and now championship) in which the REGIONAL
CHAMPIONs play against each other to decide which the best CLUB SIDE in the world is. This is
always a team from Europe or Latin America, being an unimportant TROPHY for the former and
the most important one for the latter
Tracking back
Forwards coming back towards their own goal to help to defend when the other team is attacking
A matching pair of casual trousers and top (usually with a zip), often worn on top of the football
KIT until player WARM UP
Someone just under the coach in the TECHNICAL STAFF, who concentrates on teaching and
practising techniques with the players
Training ground
Where the players practise
Buying a player from another club
Transfer fee
The money one club has to pay another to buy a player who is still under contract
Transfer window
If there is a time when teams cannot buy or sell players (usual nowadays), a short time in the
middle where they can do so
Trap (the ball)
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
Stop a ball moving, for example one which was passed to you
A cup etc that shows that you won a match or championship
Trophy cabinet
(1) The glass-fronted display cabinet that clubs show CUPs etc they have won in (2) Used as a
metaphor for how many championships the club has won, e.g. “Liverpool’s trophy cabinet will be
empty again this year”
Tuck it away
Easily score, maybe from close to the goal. Similar to SLOT IT AWAY
Tunnel (the)
The space just before the PITCH that players stand in lines in after coming out of the CHANGING
ROOMs. This expression is often used to talk about negative things like tension (or even fights)
between the two teams, or feeling nervous before a big match
The grass (or ARTIFICIAL TURF) on a pitch
Turn the tables
Put the other team into the position you were in, as if you were playing poker and you literally
turned the table around so that you now had their hand of cards and they had yours.
(1) The turning piece of metal that only lets people who have shown their ticket into the GROUND
(2) Used in expressions to show how many people attended the match, e.g. “10,000 people came
through the turnstiles”
footed tackle – A dangerous way of trying to get the ball off someone where both legs are aimed
towards them at the same time, similar to a wrestling move. Often results in a RED CARD
Unassailable lead
So far ahead in goals or points that other teams can’t possibly catch up
Unconvincing victory
Winning the match in an unimpressive way, for example because the other team was weak and
should have been beaten by more goals, or only winning because of luck
Unintentional hand ball
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
The ball hitting your hand or lower parts of your arm accidentally. This is still likely to lead to a
FREE KICK, but not to a CARD
Unsportsmanlike behaviour
Doing something that is within the rules of the game but is still unfair, for example not telling the
referee when you know the goal went in off your hand
A shot that is so WELL PLACED or (more commonly) powerful that the GOALKEEPER has no
chance of SAVING it
Show a new player or manager to the media and fans, or tell them that a new person has been
found, similar to taking the veil off the bride at a wedding
Upright (the)
An informal way to talk about the two POSTs at the edge of the goal, as they are vertical (unlike
the horizontal CROSSBAR)
Utility players
Players who can comfortably play in several POSITIONS, sometimes used in a negative way
similar to “Jack of all trades”
Able to play in several positions
A player with lots of experience, and perhaps quite old
Kicking the ball when it is still in their air and so hasn’t yet hit the ground and bounced, therefore
making it more difficult to judge and control
An abbreviation of “wives and girlfriends”, used to be negative about the females who used to
follow the England team around but were blamed for their bad performances
Several defending players standing in a line between a DIRECT FREE KICK and the goal in order
to make scoring more difficult
Wanted list
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
A jokey way of talking about which players a MANAGER wants to buy, similar to a poster
showing criminals who the police want to arrest
Warm up
(1) Stretching exercises etc before a player starts playing (2) Matches before a championship to
allow the team to practice playing together
Wasted ball
A good chance (usually to score) that is not taken advantage of, for example PASSing when you
should have taken a SHOT
logged pitch – Rain which hasn’t disappeared from the grass yet, sometimes leading to a match
being cancelled if it is very bad
Watertight defence
Players who don’t let goals be scored and maybe don’t let the ball through, like a dam stopping
Weak effort
A very bad SHOT at goal
Weakened team
Not the best 11 players that the club have, for example because they are resting some of them or
some of them are injured
Weaker foot
Your left foot if you are RIGHT FOOTED, or your right foot if you are LEFT FOOTED
Wearing the armband
Being captain
Weight (of a pass)
How much force a PASS is hit with, affecting how far and fast it travels
Well placed
A SHOT or PASS which is put in exactly the right position
The most famous stadium in London, NATIONAL STADIUM of England and home of most
important English FINALs but not the HOME GROUND of any team
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
(1) The small metal instrument that the REFEREE and LINESMEN use to get people’s attention
and indicate things like a FOUL and KICK OFF (2) The sound of that instrument (3) Disapproving
noises from the crowd, usually together with BOOs
On the right and left of the pitch, far from the centre and near the TOUCHLINE
Wide open
Win the ball
Take POSSESSION of the ball, usually meaning TACKLing but maybe also by INTERCEPTing a
The sides of the pitch, furthest away from the goal and CENTRE CIRCLE, and near the
TOUCHLINE. Comes from the wings of a bird or plane stretching left and right from their body
One of the possible POSITIONs for a DEFENDER. A variation on the FULL BACK, but with
more of an attacking role
A player who spends most of their time on the edges of the pitch near the TOUCHLINE
half – Short for “wing half back”, an old fashioned expression for a DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER
who plays on the edges of the pitch
Winter break
A time around Christmas when some leagues have no matches
Woodwork –
The POSTs and CROSSBAR, because they are traditionally made from wood (unlike the net).
Collocations Hit the +, Off the +
World Cup
Also “FIFA World Cup”, “Football World Cup” and WORLD CUP FINALS. A competition once
every four years to decide which NATIONAL TEAM is the best in the world (not necessarily the
best team in the world see TOYOTA CUP)
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
World Cup finals
Usually called just “World Cup”, it is officially called the World Cup Finals because the
QUALIFYING ROUNDs count as earlier parts of the tournament
World XI
A real or imaginary selection of the 11 best players at that time in the world
Wrong flank (the)
The side of the pitch that a player doesn’t usually play on, for example because they are LEFT
FOOTED, or because they have SWITCHed FLANKS during the game
Wrong foot
Your left foot if you are right footed and your right foot if you are left footed
Yellow card
A yellow piece of card which the referee takes out of his or her pocket to show to a player who has
done something quite bad such as committing a bad FOUL or HANDBALL, but not as bad as a
RED CARD offense like fighting. A yellow card often goes together with another punishment such
as a FREE KICK. Two yellow cards in one match means a RED CARD, and two yellow cards over
a certain period means a SUSPENSION.
Yoyo team
A team that is often goes through PROMOTION and DEMOTION, going up and down like a toy
Zonal marking
The system by which teams defend by each player taking responsibility for a particular area of the
pitch. The opposite of MAN TO MAN MARKING
Written by Alex Case for © 2010
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