Football English – all the terms you need to know

Nothing brings together nations more so than sport, and no sport is more effective at doing this than football. Inspiring passion, excitement and moments of glory the world over, international tournaments are wonderful testaments to the power of the beautiful game.

And in what better place is there to celebrate this game than the spiritual home of football itself? This year’s big tournament is almost upon us and Brazil are gearing up to create one hell of a Latin flavoured party. If you’re not much of a fan of the sport then it’s time to brush up on your knowledge in preparation. After all, come the summer, everyone will be cheering on their national team. Here are some essential terms.


OK, this isn’t English, but it’s a word you’ll be hearing a lot of in June. Brazil’s answer to South Africa’s vuvuzela (the horn with the annoying buzzing sound that soundtracked every single game in  2010), the caxirola is a Brazilian percussive instrument that you shake to make noise. Certified the official musical instrument of the 2014 World Cup by the Brazilian Ministry of Sports, expect to hear its distinctive Latin shake in abundance this summer. Thankfully it won’t be audible during the games themselves – the government has already banned it from stadiums on the basis that it could be a security risk!

Off side

Trying to explain the off side rule is like trying to explain astrophysics. Not easy. Let’s leave it to the Oxford English dictionary; off side can be defined as when a player occupies a position on the field where playing the ball is not allowed, especially in the attacking half ahead of the ball, and having fewer than two defenders nearer the goal line at the moment the ball is played. This summer’s tournament will be the first competition to feature goal line technology so hopefully wrong decisions will be kept to a minimum, but this doesn’t help with off side decisions unfortunately – that remains the opinion of linesmen and the referee!

Free kick

This is an unrestricted kick of the stationary ball awarded to one side as a penalty for a foul or infringement by the other side. England superstar David Beckham was the master of goal scoring from a free kick. It’s this skill that gave birth to a whole expression based on the man and even a film; Bend it like Beckham, meaning to curve the ball with beautiful precision.

Extra time

Relatively simple this one. Extra time is the additional time awarded at the end of each half of the match for reasons of stoppages to play during the game. Injuries, fouls, yellow and red cards are all things that can lead to a break in play and the additional time is added accordingly. Extra time is of particular significance for the English national side, when at the end of ‘full time’ (the standard 90 minutes of play) in the 1966 tournament final the scores were level at 2-2 for England against West Germany. In extra time England’s Geoff Hurst made it 3-2, and in the last minute of the game Hurst added yet another goal that sealed the trophy for England.

Penalty card

These are used as a means of warning, reprimanding or penalising a player, manager or team official. The referee will hold the card above their head while looking at or pointing to the player that has committed the offence. The colour of the card used by the official indicates the severity of the offence and the level of punishment to be applied; two yellow cards in a single game and you’re sent off, or a straight red means you’re off immediately. Famous sending offs to have blighted the World Cup include Zinedine Zidane who received a red card for headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 tournament, which led to a dramatic end to the legend’s international career and defeat for the French.


Well, hopefully, this is will be a word we’ll be a hearing a lot of! This is the unit of scoring used in football. Now England’s track record at tournaments is probably best described as consistently average, except of course for the one anomaly in 1966. Since that glorious year England have never made it past the semi-finals, but every time a big tournament comes around the nation tends to get united behind the national team and cheer them on. After all, despite no recent successes England are part of the exclusive club of only eight countries to have ever won the most coveted trophies of all, and that single star emblazoned on each player’s shirt has got to count for something.

What defining big tournament moments has your nation had? And what phrases will you be using to support your team come the summer? Let us know by leaving a comment below!