intro: With the World Cup fast approaching, you can expect sublime goals, bone-crunching tackles and players flailing around like they’re fish out of water.
To help you fit in with the soccer-loving fans in the office or at your local bar, we’ve created a guide -- a cheat sheet, really -- to some of the lingo you’ll hear while watching the games. Now even you -- an American -- can understand the world's game and fake your way through a conversation.
quicklist:1 title: Advantage text: When a player is fouled but the referee allows play to continue -- usually because the team still has the ball or has an attack going -- the referee is playing advantage. He can call the foul later if the play falls apart.
quicklist:2 title: Bookings and Being Sent Off text: Bookings happen when a referee shows a player a yellow card. Saying a player was cautioned is the same as saying he was booked. A player gets sent off when he’s shown a red card, whether because he received two yellow cards or because the referee went straight to the red card. If a player is sent off, his team plays with one less man for the rest of the game.
quicklist:3 title: Caps text: So let’s start with the fact that players don’t wear caps on the field. Instead, the number of caps a player has equals how many times he’s represented his country in a game. There’s reports of players in the U.K. wearing caps during international games back in the 1870s. They wore them during games because having matching shirts wasn’t a thing yet, so the caps distinguished them from their opponents.
quicklist:4 title: Clean Sheet text: A goalkeeper gets a clean sheet when he doesn’t allow the opposition to score.
quicklist:5 title: False 9 text: When wearing matching shirts finally became a thing, a player’s number determined his position. Center forwards wore the number 9, so playing without a center forward is called a false 9. Instead of hanging out with the opponents’ central defenders further up the field like a normal center forward, a false 9 heads back toward the midfield when looking for the ball. Many pundits expect Germany to use a false 9 during the tournament since only one center forward was named to its preliminary roster.
quicklist:6 title: Form text: A player’s form describes his recent performances. So, one doesn’t have a hot streak -- he has “a good run of form.”
quicklist:7 title: Formation text: A team's tactics will likely be a talking point throughout a game, starting with its formation. Formations range from 3-5-2s to 4-4-2s and define how a team typically lines up when it has the ball.
quicklist:8 title: Injury Time, Stoppage Time and Extra Time text: The clock during a match never stops. At the end of each half, the fourth referee at midfield will hold up a sign indicating how much time is being added on to make up for - players celebrating goals, withering on the ground before miraculously being healed, players actually getting injured, players generally wasting time and substitutions.
To make up for that time lost, the referee adds on injury or stoppage time. It’s how a 90-minute game keeps going into the 94th minute. This differs from extra time, which can happen during the knockout round when two teams end a game tied. If that happens, teams play two 15-minute halves and if that hasn’t decided anything, there’s a penalty shootout.
quicklist:9 title: Knocks and Fitness text: Players don’t pick up day-to-day injuries. Instead, they pick up knocks. And, when they’ve returned from injury, they regain their fitness.
quicklist:10 title: Own Goal text: When a team scores a goal against itself, it’s an own goal.
quicklist:11 title: Offside text: According to FIFA, a player is offside if he is “nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second [to] last opponent."
Did that help? No?
There’s several other factors, including whether the player gains an advantage, what side of the field he’s on and if he’s actually trying to play the ball. There will be dozens of contentious offside decisions during the World Cup. If it’s in favor of the team you’re rooting for - it was obviously the right decision. If it’s against the team you’re rooting for - well, that linesman clearly needs glasses.
quicklist:12 title: Penalty Shootout text: When teams end extra time tied, the match goes to a penalty shootout. Five players from each team try to score as the ball sits 12 yards from goal. If there’s no winner after the first five, shooting continues until someone wins.
Typically, England loses in penalty shootouts, having gone out of major tournaments six of seven times when a game reached penalties.
quicklist:13 title: Run of Play text: Did the announcer just say someone scored “against the run of play” and your immediate thought was, “What’s he talking about -- they’re always running and playing?” Well, you’re probably not alone. Goals that happen against the run of play mean a team scored while their opponents were dominating. It typically happens after free kicks.
quicklist:14 title: Tiki-taka text: It’s a style made popular by Spain, relying on short, quick passes, constant movement and holding on to the ball so the other team can’t score. A Spanish broadcaster is credited with first using the term tiki-taka to describe the team’s play. Spain’s won the last three straight major tournaments -- the 2008 European Championship, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship -- playing the hypnotizing or boring style, depending on whom you ask.
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