So you want to watch the World Cup, but you're not quite sure what it's all about? We did our best to articulate the rules, vernacular, and nuance of soccer in plain-speak (below), but we also found this nifty video from the Minnesota United FC. And, really, who better to explain the game than a professional soccer team with a sense of humor?
Still want to know more? Read below for a more detailed glossary of soccer terms and procedures.
The act of pretending to be hurt after light and/or incidental contact between opposition players in an attempt to win a free kick. Frowned upon by fans when it doesn’t work, but tolerated when it does, diving is just part of the game. Faking an injury is a bookable offense and, if done too often or too overzealously, referees can issue yellow cards.
When a player is fouled, but play continues because the player is in a better position than if the play was stopped. For example, if a player is one-on-one with just a defender, stopping the play would take the advantage away from the attacking team as the defending team could regroup for the free kick. Complete hackney when it happens against your team, totally legit when it benefits your team.
When a player jumps into the air leaning backward and kicks the ball, mid-air, over their head. When done well, and for a goal, it’s an instant highlight reel.
The common term for the shoe or cleat of a soccer player.
Stat reflecting how many active appearances a player has with a team. Originating from the English practice of awarding a hat to national team members for every appearance.
Being on the winning side of a shutout victory. Applies especially to the goalkeeper.
When a match ends in a tie.
The goal scored that ties the game.
(not to be confused with stoppage time). Basically, overtime. Usually consists of two 15-minute halves.
A scheduled, but yet to be played, match.
Free kicks are used to restart play after stoppage due to penalty or other game-stoppage. There are two types of free kicks
Indirect: Awarded to the opposition team when a player commits an unintentional foul, such as a handball, or other technical foul. An indirect free kick must touch another player, other than the kicker, before a goal can be scored. Opponents must be 10 yards from the kicker.
Direct: Awarded to the opposition team when a player commits a deliberate foul outside of the penalty box. Direct free kicks can go directly into the goal and, when awarded near the opposition goal, are often points of high excitement. Opposition players must stay 10 yards from the kicker and will usually form a “wall” of defense.
A scrimmage between two teams that has no bearing on standings. Very common internationally, especially before the World Cup.
►Group of Death
In tournament group stages, the group of death is the group with more talent than advancing positions. In World Cup group stage, where only two teams advance, a group of death is one where three or more of the teams are expected to advance. Often there are several in a tournament. This year’s major group of death is Group G with the United States, Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Portugal has arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. Germany is a perennial powerhouse. Ghana has beat the US in consecutive World Cups. The US has looked much better this year than previous World Cups. This one might come down to a string of tie breakers (or heartbreakers).
In league or tournament play, goal differential is goals scored minus goals against. If a team scores three goals over five games, but has six goals scored against them in the same time span, their goal differential is -3.
When one player scores three goals in a game. The first player to complete a hat-trick in World Cup soccer was Bert Patenaude, for Team USA, in 1930.
When a player deliberately touches the ball with their hand (other than the goalkeeper within the goal box). Of course, deliberately is subjective and when the penalty is called against your team, it’s usually wrong.
►Hand of God
A famous play in the 1986 World Cup. Diego Maradona of Argentina headed a ball over the English goalkeeper. The trouble is that Maradona obviously used his hand to punch the ball in. Maradona later said the goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." Maradona later coached the Argentine national team from 2008-2010, including during the 2010 World Cup.
The common term for the player's uniform and often the impetus for the team nickname (i.e. Belgium’s national team being called the Red Devils in part due to their red kits).
When a player is injured, the medical team comes out and sprays this magic substance on the afflicted area (and sometimes on random areas, just so long as it gets on the player, mostly). Immediately cures fake injuries and bad acting.
Zero, as in, "the score was 1-nil," or "the match ended in a nil-nil tie.
Passing the ball intentionally between an opposing player’s legs and reclaiming the ball on the other side.
When a receiving player is beyond the last defender at the moment the ball is passed to him.
►Parking the Bus
Playing extremely, and mainly, defensively, like parking a bus in front of the goal.
If a foul is committed within the penalty box, the fouled player (or other team member if player is injured) takes a penalty kick 12 yards out from the goal. In the shooter vs. goalkeeper situation, more often than not a goal is scored. These can be game changing if scored or not. A converted penalty kick in a close game could spell the difference. A missed penalty kick can rattle the shot-taking team and rejuvenate the opposition.
The field that soccer is played on.
Soccer rankings are determined by points. Points are awarded for wins and draws. A win earns three points and a draw earns one point.
In soccer, the home team is often listed first or on top, as opposed to the american custom of listing the home team second. In addition, soccer scores are usually written out as USA 1-0 Germany and read as "USA one nil Germany."
Well practiced free kicks and corner kicks. As close as you’ll get to an American Football-style play.
►Soccer or Football?
Maybe you feel weird calling the sport football considering we have another major sport called football. Or maybe you feel uncultured for calling the sport that most of the world calls football, soccer. Here’s the thing: Don’t. The term “soccer” is actually an English slang term for Association Football. Football, originally, is any game played with a ball on your feet (doesn’t mean you have to kick it—it was a distinction from higher class sports that were played on horseback). Association football is the name given to soccer when it received the first collectively agreed upon rules. As kids are oft to do, they turned an otherwise verbose and long name into something they could say quickly. Adding an -er ending to an abbreviation of Association Football, they came up with soccer. Association Football - Football + er = Soccer.
So, there you go. Next time someone calls you an uninformed American for calling the sport soccer, drop some knowledge on them. Ultimately, though, just enjoy the game no matter what you call it.
Soccer is played in two halves of 45 minutes. The clock runs the entire time, whether the game is going on or stopped for injury. Stoppage time is the time added to each half to make up for stopped time in the game due to injury, “injury,” or other technical stoppages. In theory, the referee should add as much time as the game was stopped. Usually, between one to four minutes are added. The game is only over, though, when the referee says so. Three minutes of stoppage time could last two minutes or four minutes. Generally, the referee won’t stop the game while the ball is advancing, instead waiting for a break in play such as an interception or the ball going out of bounds.
How soccer teams are ranked in their league. The table is arranged by most points, with the team who has earned the most points at the top of the table.
The act of taking the ball from an opposition player by sliding into the ball to push it away. Completely legal if the tackler touches the ball first, highly bookable if the tackler hits the player first. Often a tackle results in some spectacular acting.
The line of defenders lined up 10 yards from the free kicker. Often members of the kicker’s team will be in the wall and will try to move the wall one way or another as the free kicker takes his shot.
►Yellow Card/Red Card
The penalty system in soccer. Yellow cards are warnings, red cards result in the player being ejected from the game and the team must play a man down the rest of the match. In addition, the player is banned from the next game. If a player receives two yellow cards in a single game, it becomes a red card and the player is ejected. Or a player can be issued a direct red card for a severe infraction.
A Portugal vs. Netherlands World Cup 2006 match holds the records for most cards shown with four reds and sixteen yellows. Each team ended up playing two men down and nearly everyone else being cautious not to get that second yellow.
In some tournaments and leagues, yellows carry over to the next game. For instance, if a player gets a yellow in match one and a yellow in match two, their banned from match three. But, if a player gets a yellow in match one, none in match two, and one in match three, they can still play match four as yellows are removed after the next game.
Minnesota United FC plays in the North American Soccer League and is set to kick off its Fall campaign July 12 after winning the spring championship.