English vocabulary for the World Cup

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is in full swing. It started off with a bang when Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 and it has been exhilarating from that moment. Some of the favourites have lost, some underdogs are doing exceptionally well, and some teams are already as good as through to the knock-out rounds.

So here is some vocabulary that you can use when you’re in the pub watching the game. Enjoy the rest of the World Cup! Good luck to whichever team you support.


  1. Kick-off

In football the game begins with the players flicking a coin to decide who should take the kick-off. This means that team will make the first pass back to their own team and be able to initiate the first half of the match. The second half kick-off will be done by the opposing team. Pretty standard stuff.

However, if someone kicks off outside of football it means that they are very angry or suddenly became aggressive about something. A fight can kick off at the kebab shop late on a Saturday night, or your boyfriend might kick off because you told him that he can’t watch the match tonight because your favourite soap opera is on the TV.

  1. Positions

Football teams usually set up in three basic areas: defence, midfield and attack. However, each of these areas of play also contain different positions and roles.

In defence the last man who can catch the ball with his hands is the goalkeeper. In front of him, he will have usually two or three centre-backs. In the past, teams used to have a sweeper, but this role is very uncommon now. On the sides of the pitch, in defence, most teams employ full-backs at left-back or right-back positions. These lateral defenders can play defensive roles or, in more attacking teams, play as wing-backs, and go forward much more than usual.

In midfield you have defensive midfielders, holding midfielders, central midfielders, attacking midfielders and playmakers who can all play different roles in the centre of the pitch. On the sides you have wingers, who try to play the ball in from the side of the pitch.

In attack, the most common goal-scoring player is a centre-forward, or striker. However, nowadays there are many more roles, such as a target-man who looks to receive the ball and create play; false-nine, which is really a midfielder in the wrong position; as well as forwards, who are basically strikers but move around more.

Players who come on the pitch later in the game are called substitutes.

Apart from that, there is the coach (or manager), physios, referees (or officials) and commentators who are all part of the spectacle of a football match.


  1. Winning phrases

If you score 3 and your opponent scores 2 then you have beat them. You win the match. They lose, and get a cold shower.

It is possible that the losing team played better, and then you could say they were robbed.

But perhaps the goalkeeper made a howler, a huge mistake, which cost them the game.

It is a game of two halves after all, so perhaps the first half the losing team played better but in the second half the winners made a comeback and got stuck in. Some of their forwards might have run the defence ragged, tormenting the defenders by positioning themselves all over the attacking area.

Sometimes defenders shout ‘Man on!’ when there is an attacking player behind their teammates. But the prolific goalscorer of this winning team has a lot of pace (is very fast) and he nutmegged (put the ball through the legs of a player) the defender and made a clinical finish in the dying minutes to win the game.


And the crowd went wild!


Written by James R. McCance for Aston School



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