The Complete Football Vocabulary


With the World Cup just around the corner, Primrose and her friends Paco and Pepe from The Verb To Be of Football have put their heads together and come up with this long list of football terms as a special Christmas present for all the fans around the worlds.  So, get on the ball and make your New Year’s Resolution – start studying these words now!  With this vocabulary you can truly enjoy the World Cup.

ADVANTAGE LAW:  A clause in the law that directs the referee to refrain from stopping the game for a foul if this means benefitting the team that committed the violation.

AET:  After Extra Time.  If the score is even, the match is prolonged by 30 minutes.

AGAINST THE RUN OF PLAY:  This is when a goal is scored when the opposing team seems to be doing better.

AGGREGATE SCORE:  This is calculated by adding the two scores when teams play two matches – one at HOME and one AWAY.  An example of this is in the SEMI FINALS.

ALL: This is used to show that the final score was a DRAW.  Example, Two – ALL.

ALL SEATER:  A stadium with no standing room.

ANGLE OF RUN:  The angle at which a player runs, especially when SCORING.

AREA:  The rectangular part of the PITCH near the goal area where the GOALKEEPER can use his/her hands.  It is also called the PENALTY AREA.

ATTACKER:  Any player with the ball who is trying to move it towards the OPPOSITION´S GOAL.

AUTOMATIC BOOKING:  A YELLOW or RED CARD that the referees give due to the rules being broken with no place to make their own judgement on the matter.  An example of this is a late TACKLE from behind with STUDS UP.

AWAY GOAL:  This is when the AGGREGATE SCORE from HOME and AWAY matches is a DRAW.  Those goals scored AWAY count more than the goals scored AT HOME.

AWAY LEG:  This is when a TIE is played in LEGS at both teams’ GROUNDS and at HOME.

AWAY STRIP:  This is the second set of clothes that teams wear when playing away and their usual KIT resembles that of their opponents.

AZURRI:  The nick name for the Italian National team, meaning blue due to the colour of the KIT.

B TEAM:  The reserves.

BACK FOUR:  The DEFENDERS of one team.

BACK HEADER: When the players use their heads to direct the ball backwards.

BACK HEEL:  This is when the players use the back of their feet to PASS or SHOOT the ball.

BACK PAGES:  A nick name for the sports pages of a newspaper.

BAFANA BAFANA:  The nick name for the South African national team, meaning The Boys.

BALANCE:  This is positioning the DEFENDERS away from the ball to protect the vital space behind the DEFENCE.

BALL CARRIER:  This refers to the player who controls the ball.

BALL WATCHING:  Looking only at the ball and not paying attention to the position of the other players.

BALLOON SHOT:  A SHOT that goes far too high.


BEAT:  To win against a team.  NOTE not to win the team.

BEAUTIFUL GAME:    The sport Football.

BENCH WARMER:  A player who rarely plays.

BICYCLE KICK:  A shot when the players flip their bodies over to SHOOT when the ball is over their heads.

BID FOR A PLAYER:  This is when a team states how much they would pay another team for one of their players in the case of a transfer.

BIG MAN:  A tall player who is an OFFENDER often used as an ATTACKER.

BLIND:  A common insult for referees who have made a wrong decision or not seen a FOUL.

BLIND SIDE:  This is the opposite side of a DEFENDER to the ball.

BLUNDER:  An embarrassing mistake.

Boo:  To insult by shouting “boo”.

Booking:  This is when the referee gives a YELLOW CARD to a player to show a serious FOUL.

BOOT THE BALL:  To kick the ball hard and far without thinking about where it is going to go.

BOSMAN:  A free transfer of players who have come to the end of their contract.

BOTTOM HALF OF THE TABLE:  Those teams at the lowest part of the division.

BOX TO BOX:  A move that goes from near one goal to the other end of the pitch.

BRACE:  This is when two GOALS are SCORED by the same player in the same match.

BREAK:  This is when a team quickly advance down the field to get its players near the opponent’s GOAL before the DEFENDERS have the chance to retreat.


CAP:  This is an appearance for a national team.  The number of CAPS a player has represents the number of times he/she has played for the national team.

CARRYING THE BALL:  This is when a GOALKEEPER walks more than the three steps permitted while holding the ball.


CENTRAL MIDFIELD:  The MIDFIELDERS who play nearest to the GOAL.

CENTRE HALF:  Sometimes called the CENTRAL DEFENDER.

CENTRE SPOT:  This is the point where KICK OFF takes place.

CHECKING RUN:  This is the movement used to create space between the player with the ball and the marking opponent.

CHECKING:  This refers to making a movement in one direction, stopping and going off in the opposite direction.

CHEST TRAP:  This is a pass thrown into the air from one player to another on the same team.

CLEATS:  These are the metal, or plastic points in the bottom of the shoes to provide the players with traction.

COIN TOSS:  This is when the REFEREE throws a coin into the air to decide which team is going to KICK OFF.

CONTROL or CUSHION:  This is controlling the ball by withdrawing the surface in contact with it on impact.  An example of this is when the thigh is used.

CORNER ARC:  This is a QUARTER CIRCLE with a radius of one yard located at each end of the field.

CHIP PASS:  A shot hit high to bend over the GOALKEEPER’S head and land into the NET.

CONCEDE:  This is when a GOALKEEPER does not SAVE a goal.

DEAD BALL:  A situation in which play has stopped and the side with the ball can take their time about how and when to move it back into play.  This happens in a PENALTY or a CORNER.  Some teams spend a lot of time practising these situations!

DRIBBLE:  This is to control the ball with the feet.

DUG OUT:  This is the place where the manager, coach and substitute players sit during a match.

DUMMY:  This is when a player pretends to move one way in order to go past an opponent and moves in the other direction.  It also applies to when kicking the ball.

EXPOSED AT THE BANK:  This is when there are problems in DEFENCE usually because of the players being too close to the opposite GOAL or due to injuries to first choice DEFENDERS.

FIRST TOUCH:  This is used when a footballer can control the ball when it comes, or when a player KICKS or HEADS the ball for the first time after coming on to the PITCH.

FIXTURE:  This is a game FIXED for a certain date.

FLUKE:  A lucky GOAL or SAVE.

FREE KICK:  This is similar to a PENALTY but with the ball being kicked further back from the GOAL.

FUMBLE:  This is when the GOALKEEPER is unable to catch the ball properly and it ends up in the NET.

GO THE RIGHT/WRONG WAY:  This occurs when the GOALKEEPER guesses correctly/incorrectly the direction a SHOT will go.

GOAL DIFFERENCE:  This is the difference in goals or points between two teams

GOAL KICK:  A dead ball situation in which the GOALKEEPR can kick the ball without being TACKLED.

HACKING:  This is kicking unskilfully at another player’s legs when trying to get control of the ball, very often resulting in a FOUL.

HAIR DRYER TREATMENT:  This refers to the coach shouting at his/her team at HALF TIME because they are losing the match.

HALF VOLLEY:  This is kicking the ball after it has just hit the ground before it has had time to bounce.

HAND OF GOD:  This term comes from the GOAL Maradona scored against England in the WORLD CUP by lifting his hand above his head on 22nd June 1986.  Later he said it was the head of Maradona but the hand of God.

HAMMER THE BALL HOME:  This is kicking the ball very hard and SCORING.

HOWLER:  A bad piece of play.

INTERCEPT:  This is when a player takes the ball from a rival player when he/she tries to pass it.

INDIRECT FREE TRICK:  This is awarded when a player plays dangerously or uses foul language.  Two players must KICK the ball before a goal can be SCORED.

JAB:  This is KICKING the ball without moving the foot very much.

KEEP THE BALL IN PLAY:  To stop the ball going over the white TOUCHLINE at the side of the PITCH and avoiding the game to be stopped.

KINGPINS:  This refer to the player who controls the game, usually the MIDFIELDER.

KNOCK OUT:  This is when one team KNOCKS OUT or BEATS another team.  The defeated team can no longer play in the TOURNAMENT.

LAST DITCH TACKLE:  This causes the ATTACKER to be in front of the GOAL with only the GOALKEEPER to beat if all else fails.

LEAD:  The team that is winning a match.

LEAVE THE GOAL WIDE OPEN:  This is when the goalkeeper stands in a position which makes it easy to score.

LOSE THE DRESSING ROOM:  This is when the MANAGER has lost the players’ confidence and the term is used to explain why he/she has been fired.

LOW CROSS:  This is a CROSS that stays close to the ground.

LOW SHOT:  This is a SHOT which stays close to the ground.

MARK:  This is when one player GUARDS another to prevent him/her receiving the ball.

MAJORITY OF POSSESSION:  This is when the players on one team have the ball more than the other team.

MAN ON:  This is a warning to a player when he is in danger of being tackled.

MATCH FIT:  This refers to a player who is healthy or who has recovered from an injury and is able to play.


MIDFIELD DIAMOND:  This is a formation with four MIDFIELDERS playing with two side by side and another two on their own in front and behind.

MISDIRECT/MISPLACE A PASS:  This is to PASS the ball to the rival team or to another player who is unable to get it.

MOVEMENT OFF THE BALL:  This is when a player moves around into a space to get another player to PASS him/her the ball.

MOVING INTO SPACE:  This is to run into a place on the PITCH making it easy to receive the ball.

NEUTRALIZE:  This is making sure that a threatening team or player is not a danger with GOOD MAN TO MAN MARKING or the RIGHT FORMATION.

NIGGLING FOULS:  These are insignificant FOULS which are likely to annoy rather than lead to a YELLOW CARD.

NUTMEG:  To kick the ball through a player’s legs.

ON THE BENCH:  A substitute who might play.

ON THE BREAK:  This is when a player SCORES, while the majority of the team are in the other half of the PITCH.

ON TOP:  This refers to a team reaching first place in the DIVISION.

ONE-TOUCH-FOOTBALL:  This is a style of play when the players pass the ball very quickly to each other.

OUT AND OUT STRIKER:  This is a player who has the role of SCORING goals rather than being an AID.

OWN GOAL:  This is when a player accidently SCORES a goal in his/her own NET.

PARK THE BUS (In Front Of The Goal):  This is to pull all the players back in order to DEFEND a LEAD.

PARTNERSHIP.  This occurs when two players play close to each other.

PASSING GAME:  This is a style when PASSING is the most important thing.

PEP TALK:  This is a short talk of encouragement to the players.

PINT SIZED:  This is used to describe a STRIKER who is small.

PITCH:  This is the area of grass that the footballers play on.

PLAY DEEP:  This is when a player is closer to his/her own GOAL than usual.

PLAY WIDE:  This is when the playing takes place on the right and left of the pitch, near the TOUCHLINE and far from the CENTRE.

PULL THE BALL BACK:  This is a PASS/CROSS which goes backwards.

PUNDIT:  This is an expert who analyses a game at HALF TIME.


RAPPORT:  This is how a team understands each other and can anticipate each other’s movements.

READ A PASS:  This is to know where and when a PASS is going to end up.

RED CARD:  This is a punishment given by the REFEREE when a player has committed a foul.

REFLEX SAVE:  A save which has not been planned and done on reflex.

RELEGATION:  This is the opposite of PROMOTION and it happens when a team is placed in a lower group.

RUN OFF THE BALL:  This is when a player does not have the ball.

SCISSOR KICK:  This is the same as a LOLLYPOP KICK, when a player KICKS the ball like a pair of scissors.

SCOREBOARD:  The board where the scores are shown.

SET PLAY:  This is a FREE KICK, THROW IN or CORNER when the play is returned after a STOPPAGE.

SET UP A GOAL:  This is to pass the ball to another player in order to AID him/her score a goal.

SHIMMY:  This is when a player moves his hips to go around a player or as a FEINT.

SHIRT TUGGING:  This is when a player pulls another shirt to restrict ability.  It is considered a minor offence.

SILKY SKILLS:  This is skilful and effortless PASSING and DRIBBLING of the ball.

SIT BACK:  This is when a player relaxes and stops ATTACKING.

SITTER:  A very easy SHOT which is often missed by the GOALKEEPER.

SHOOT:  To try and SCORE a GOAL by KICKING and aiming into the NET.

SKIPPER:  The captain of a team.

SLOT IT IN:  This is to SCORE due to accuracy rather than power at short range.

SOLO EFFORT:  This is a SOLO GOAL or a close attempt at one.

SPECTATOR:  This is a person who watches a match.


STAMP:  This is when a player deliberately steps on a player when he is on the ground.  This is penalised with a RED CARD

STANDS:  This is where the SPECTATORS sit.  Another word is BLEACHERS.

STRAIGHT INTO THE ARMS OF:  A shot easy for the GOALKEEPER to save.

STRIKER:  A player who scores.

STRIP:  This is the teams’ official shirt bearing its colour and sign.

STUDS UP:  This is TACKLING or TRAPPING the ball with the sole of the boot pointing towards another player which can lead to danger of injury plus a YELLOW CARD.

SUPPLY LINE:  The PASSES and CROSSES towards the STRIKERS – a player who does this.

SWITCH FLANKS:  This is to move from left to right.

TACKLE:  This is when a player tries to take the ball from a player on the opposite team.

TAME SHOT:  This is a weak SHOT and the term is very often used to criticize the GOALKEEPER.

TAP IT IN:  To SCORE with a gentle SHOT.

THREAD THE BALL:  This is to PASS the ball between two rivals in a similar way to threading a needle.

THROUGH ON BALL:  This is to get the ball past the last DEFENDER.

TIME OUT:  This happens when the manager or the coach call time out to chat with a player.

THROW IN:  This is when the ball goes off the PITCH and a player it takes and throws it to his team mate from outside over his head.

TOUCHLINE:  The longest sides of the PITCH are also known as the SIDELINES.

TRACKING BACK:  This is when the FORWARDS go back towards their own GOAL to help defend when the rival team is ATTACKING.

TRAP:  This is stopping the ball moving when it is passed to a player.

TUCK AWAY:  This is SCORING easily perhaps from near the GOAL AREA.

UNSTOPPABLE:  This is a powerful SHOT that the GOALKEEPER cannot stop.

WALL:  This happens when the players on one team make a human wall in an attempt to block a FREE KICK.

WASTED BALL:  This is when a player loses the chance to SCORE, e.g. when passing the ball instead of taking a SHOT.

WIN THE BALL:  This is to take possession of the ball by TACKLING or INTERCEPTING a PASS.

YELLOW CARD:  This is the first warning the REFEREE gives to a player before a RED CARD.