The World Cup is finally here, which is cause for excitement. For a month, we’ll be entertained by some of the best and most recognizable athletes on earth. Even for those who don’t follow the sport religiously, this tournament can prove to be exciting theatre.
For those type of fans though, there’s always one thing that can hinder the experience of actually watching these games.
Soccer, and thus commentators of soccer matches, tend to speak in a language that is unique to the sport. This usually results in them describing the action in ways that might seem foreign to the casual fan.
Never you worry, though, we’ve got your back. Check out this list of terms you need to know, in our comprehensive World Cup dictionary:
A referee “plays” advantage when a player fouls a member of a team with the ball, but the ref decides not to call the foul in order to let the team continue with advantageous progression of play.
The defensive unit of a team.
The act of a player receiving a yellow card, usually for a serious foul.
Denotes the lining between a goalpost and a corner flag. Analogous to the “baseline” in basketball.
Refers to the amount of in-game appearances a player has made for his national side.
An attempt to win possession of a ball, whether it be aerially, or via a tackle.
Describes the act of a defender kicking a ball clear from danger and members of the opposition who are in an offensively advantageous position.
A term sometimes used to describe a goalkeeper.
Describes a player acting as if he will receive an incoming pass, then allowing it to go past him in a way that tricks defenders, usually allowing another team member to receive the ball instead.
A goal that ties a game.
“Overtime” for soccer consists of two 15-minute halves that make up extra time. Extra time is only necessary during knockout stages.
Known as the most important skill in soccer, it describes the manner in which a player receives a ball. The perfect first touches are those that are received most cleanly with minimum recoil. Touches in general are analogous to a dribble in basketball.
The starting lineup
The game clock during a soccer match never stops, regardless of injuries, disputes or anything else. To compensate for this, though, a referee keeps track of how much time has been used for any stoppages that took time away from the players actually going on with the match (like a player getting stretchered off the field) and tries to add it onto the match at the end of either half.
Assistant referees who are positioned along sidelines, predominately to judge whether players should be ruled offsides.
A player who is defending a particular member of the opposition at a certain time.
A term used to describe an attacking player (usually, who has received a pass) that was positioned past the last defender of the opposition while the teammate made the pass.
A risky style of scoring a penalty kick, which sees a player fake as if he is going to strike the ball hard, only to go on and lob it.
Refers to the match resuming action after a goal occurs.
Run of play
A term used to describe the action of match. If a team is said to control the run of play, they are the side in the more progressive and dominant position. You are most likely to hear this term being used while describing a goal that happened “against the run of play,” which is another way of saying that a team has scored despite looking like they were less likely to do so.
A play that takes place after a ball is not in play. This generally refers to corner kicks and free-kicks.
Also known as a penalty kick, which are literally taken from the white spot that is marked in the penalty area. If you’ve tuned into a game that’s already in progress, a commentator might note that player X scored “from the spot,” which means he scored from a penalty.
Another name for the forward(s) of a team. Strikers are the players positioned further up the field and are primarily tasked with scoring goals.
An attempt to take the ball away from an opponent with the use of feet.
The No. 10
A title usually bestowed upon the playmaker of a team. Even when said player is not wearing that specific number, commentators might note that he is playing the “no. 10 role.”
To bring the ball under control.
A term used to describe the area around which the crossbar and goal posts meet. Ex: “He struck that (goal) in the upper 90.”
A shot that occurs via a player hitting the ball while it is in flight.
A go-ahead goal that wins the game. Ex: “He scored the winner in the 90th minute.”
A term used to refer to either the goal post or cross bar. Ex: “His last shot hit the woodwork.”
A nickname used to refer to the US national team.
Analogous to a zone defense in basketball, zonal marking demands that (during set pieces) defenders pick up an offensive player that comes to their zone as opposed to man marking, which demands that a defender picks up a specific member of the opposition.
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