How not to sound like an idiot when talking about the World Cup


(Andre Penner/AP)

Fancy to learn a little bit more about the world’s most popular game? Then you’ve come to the right place. Below find a need-to-know guide to soccer terminology, or as most of the world calls it, football. Once you get these terms down, the World Cup will become much more enjoyable — mostly because you’ll finally understand what’s going on.

Assist: Let’s start with one of the only terms America has contributed to the soccer lexicon. This means exactly what you think. It’s when a player passes the ball to another player on his team who then scores.

Boots: This English term can often be heard to describe a player’s shoes, or cleats.

Box: There are two of these at each end of the field. There’s the 18-yard (16.5-meter) box, which is the penalty (see below) area, and the six-yard (5.5-meter) box that makes up the goal area.

Cap: This isn’t a type of hat. In soccer, a cap is the term used to describe how many international matches a player has partaken in. For example, Tim Howard of Team USA earned his 100th cap against Nigeria on June 8.

Cards: The referee holds two cards in his pocket — one yellow and one red — which are used to indicate a serious foul has been committed. If a players is given a card, it is said that he’s been “booked.” See red card and yellow card for details.

Clear: This is a way to describe a kick or head bump to the ball that knocks it, or clears it, away from the goal area.

Corner kick: If a ball is sent out of bounds by a defender on the end line around the goal, the attacking team gets to kick it in from the closest corner of the pitch.

Dead Ball: Well this is easy — it’s a ball that’s not moving.

Dive: Also called a flop, this is a deliberate, elaborate and sometimes hilarious act one puts on in order to draw a free kick or a penalty.

Dribble: Not to be confused with the basketball term, in soccer, a dribble means to use your feet to maneuver a ball around an opponent. When done skillfully, it looks like an art.

Extra time: This refers to overtime play in which two 15 minute periods are added on to the 90 minutes of regulation play that are split into two 45-minute halves.

Flop: See dive.

Free kick: A player is awarded this when his opponent engages with him in a particularly careless or reckless manner. The kick can be described as either direct, where the player can pass or kick on the goal from the spot of the foul, or indirect, a kick which is awarded to a team if the opposing goalie commits a foul in his own penalty area.

Friendly: This adjective is used as a noun to refer to stand-alone matches that are not a part of any tournament play. They’re basically practice matches and can be played between local, national or international teams.

Goal: Don’t ever say “points.” If a game is 3-2, it’s three goals to two.

Header: This one is easy to understand. It’s when a player uses his head instead of his foot to move the ball along.

Injury time: See stoppage time.

Kit: A player’s uniform.

Linesman: This is a specific type of referee, but not the main referee (see below), who uses a flag to signal if a play is offside or the ball goes out of bounds.

Match: This is the preferred way to refer to a soccer game.

Nil: There are no zeroes in soccer. When the score is 1-0, you don’t say “one to zero,” it’s “one-nil.”

Offside or offsides: You will hear this one a lot. It’s called when a player is closer to the opponent’s goal than the ball or the penultimate defender.

Own goal: You are unlikely to see one of these. It’s when a player scores a goal against his own goalie. If a player does this, it’s counted as a goal for the opposing team. It’s also generally a huge embarrassment.

Penalty: Unlike most sports, this term is not used to describe a foul or any sort of unsavory behavior. It refers instead to a type of kick that puts one player directly against the goalie from a special spot in the penalty box 12 yards from the goal. A player is awarded a penalty kick if he is fouled by the opposing team in a specific zone.

Penalty shootout: You won’t see one of these during the World Cup’s group rounds. That’s because ending in a tie, or draw, is possible. But when it comes to the knockout rounds of the tournament, a game winner will be decided by a penalty shootout if it ends in a tie after extra time. In that case, the teams gather on the field and choose five individual shooters to go head-to-head with the opposing team’s goalie. The team that scores the most out of those five tries wins. If it is a tie after that, then the shootout goes into sudden death. At that point, if one team scores and the other doesn’t, the game ends.

Pitch: You can call the grassy area soccer is played on a “field,” but most people use this English term instead.

Red card: If a player is given a red card by the referee, he is automatically ejected from the game. Violations include: violence, spitting, deliberately touching the ball with your hands if you’re not a goalie, overly dangerous plays, flagrantly fouling an opponent to prevent an inevitable goal, offensive or insulting language or gestures or receiving two yellow cards in one game.

Referee: Not to be confused with the linesmen (see above), the referee is the person in charge of everything on the field. He holds the yellow and red cards and also determines how much stoppage time will be tacked on the end of each half.

Stoppage time: This is extra time slapped onto the end of the each 45-minutes half as deemed appropriate by the referee. Since soccer is played in uninterrupted intervals, the stoppage time accounts for the delays that happen due to injuries, substitution or other scenarios the referee sees fit.

Tackle: This word has a wholly different meaning than how most American sports fans would know it. It does not mean to lay someone out on the ground with force nor does it have anything to do with fishing. Instead, it refers to a player using his feet (and occasionally, a little bit of shoulder) to steal the ball from his opponent.

Touch line: This is a synonym for sideline.

Throw in: This method of restarting play is awarded to the opposing team of a player who kicks the ball out of bounds on the touch lines.

Yellow card: This card is doled out as a formal caution. If a player racks up two during a single game, he will be ejected. Yellow card fouls include unsportsmanlike conduct (including dives!), dissent by words or actions, persistent breakage of the roles, delaying the start or restart of a play, defending a corner kick, free kick or throw-in too closely, and entering or leaving the field without the referee’s permission.

Now that you’ve mastered these, time to memorize the entire FIFA 2014-2015 “Laws of the Game” guide.

The biggest single-event sports competition on Earth kicks off once again. From the reign in Spain to the United States’s fierce competition, here’s what you need to know. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)
Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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