Soccer Terms

Here’s a list of terms, vocabulary and definitions used to describe certain aspects of the game and things that happen in soccer / football. Some soccer / football terms are more common than others, while some are only used in certain countries. This list will help you understand all the different types of soccer / football lingo used all over the world.

Soccer Terms & Definitions

  1. Advantage – when a player is fouled but the referee allows play to continue since the offensive team still has possession and has a good attack going (if the play does fall apart the referee can then call the foul – the referee is waiting to see how the play unfolds)
  2. Area chica – Spanish term for the six yard box in front of the goal
  3. Back heel – hitting the ball with your heel (passing with the heel of your foot to a player who has made a run behind you
  4. Booking or booked – when a yellow card is given by the referee that player has been booked; usually the ref writes the player’s name down in his notebook of players who have been given cards during the game
  5. Brace – when a player scores two goals
  6. Build up – usually when a team plays the ball out of the back rather than serving the ball up to the forward with a long pass; a slower and more methodical way to bring the ball out of the back where the defenders keep possession of the ball and move it laterally
  7. Catenaccio – tactical system in soccer with an emphasis on defending; in Italian it means door-bolt; strategy where team tries to prevent goals more than anything, especially if they’re down a man or only need to tie the game
  8. Check – to ask for the ball or make a run checking back to receive the ball
  9. Chilena – name for an over head kick or bicycle kick in Latin America
  10. Clasico – Spainish term for when local rivals are playing one another
  11. Clean sheet – when a keeper doesn’t allow the opposing team to score
  12. Clearing it – when a team decisively kicks the ball out of its defensive zone, stopping the other team’s offensive attack (if a team is being bombarded with an offensive attack and can’t seem to stop it, your team can boot the ball down field or out of bounds to regroup and get everyone back into position)
  13. Closing down – putting pressure on an offensive player so they have no space or time to operate
  14. Capocannoniere – nickname for the top scorer in the Italian Serie A
  15. Clean sheet – when a keeper doesn’t let in a goal
  16. Cover – supporting the player closing down an opponent (the second and third defenders who cover the first player to help win the ball)
  17. Dead ball – a free kick
  18. Derby – game against a cross town rival
  19. Diagonal ball – just what it is, a cross field pass or diagonal ball that opens up the game
  20. Direct play – playing the ball forward; usually looking to pick out a forward who is posting up; not trying to slow the game down but looking to attack
  21. Diving header – when a player jumps parallel to the ground in order to hit the ball with his or her head (when that’s the only way the attacking player can really reach the ball)
  22. Dual citizenship – holds citizenship in two countries but the player can only play for one country, and if he or she has already played for one country he or she cannot then go play for another.
  23. Dummy – Letting the ball go past or through your legs to a teammate.
  24. Dummy run – A run by player without the ball to draw a defender away
  25. Far post – the goalpost farthest from where you are positioned (refers to runs made into the goal box – near and far post runs)
  26. Final whistle – the game of soccer is 90 minutes long but the referee adds on injury time and time for substitutions, so when the game ends exactly is determined by the referee’s final whistle
  27. Free Transfer – this means a player leaves a team when their contract ends and the club don’t get any money in return for the player; usually teams are compensated with a transfer fee when a player leaves who’s still under contract
  28. Galáctico – term used to describe a soccer or football star (Real Madrid’s effort to buy world class and famous stars like Figo, Beckam, Zidane, Ronaldo, and Robinho)
  29. Get stuck in – to make a hard tackle that sets a tone or makes a statement that your team is there to play
  30. Goalaso – Spanish for incredible goal.
  31. Golden goal – A goal scored in overtime which ends the match.
  32. Half volley – striking the ball just after it hits the ground
  33. Handbagging – when players are fighting on the field but just throwing soft punches or slaps, like old ladys throwing their handbags
  34. Hattrick – three goals in one game by one player
  35. Header – to hit the ball with the head
  36. Hospital ball – a poor pass to a teammate that puts them in danger of being hurt (a slow pass that doesn’t quite get to your teammate)
  37. Indirect kick – a free kick where a teammate must touch the ball before you can score
  38. Injury time – time added on to the end of the game because of injuries or stoppage time (fouls, injuries, the other team intentionally wasting time)
  39. In-swinger – a cross that is bending towards the goal mouth and not away from the goalkeeper
  40. Jockeying – holding up a player or steering him or her into a defenders path; not diving in and trying to win the ball until you have support from other defenders
  41. Linesman – the assistant referee with the flag who tells the referee when the ball is out of bounds or when an attacker is off-sides (there are two linesman, each monitoring one half of the field)
  42. Marking – closing down or keeping a close eye on an attacking player to win the ball or dissuade an opponent to make a pass to this player
  43. Near post – the goalpost closest to you (refers to runs made into the goal box – near and far post runs)
  44. Nutmeg – To put the ball between an opponent’s legs
  45. Offside – beyond the second to last defender and involved in the play
  46. Olympic goal – scoring directly from a corner kick; bending the ball into the goal right from a corner
  47. One-touch – playing the ball with just one touch
  48. Onion bag – the goal or net
  49. Out swinger – a cross that is bending away from the goal
  50. Overlap – player runs around a teammate and ahead of the ball for a pass into space (outside defender makes a run around the wide midfielder)
  51. Own goal – goal scored by your own team (accidental goal or deflection for instance)
  52. Panenka – a soft chipped penalty kick; often the penalty taker acts like he or she is going to kick the ball hard but instead cleverly and at times courageously chips the ball into the net; Zidane did this in the World Cup final for example ; this type of shot gets its name from Antonin Paneka, who did it in a Euro Cup final
  53. Pedalada – step over move; Robinho is the master of this move and usually does a series of step overs before beating the defender
  54. Pichichi – the player who finishes the La Liga season with the most goals; the top goal scorer in Spain’s top soccer league
  55. PK – penalty kick
  56. Play the way you’re facing – pass the ball in the direction you are facing (you don’t have to turn – lay the ball back and then make a run into space)
  57. Playmaker – the player who directs the offensive attack and controls the game (everything goes through this player, a player like Zidane)
  58. Pressure – closing down the opponent or other team on defense (make the player with the ball, that you are pressuring, get their head down so that can’t see the field or make a play so easily)
  59. Professional foul – a foul made when a player has a clear advantage and may lead to a scoring opportunity (a subtle trip or grabbing of the jersey so the offensive player goes down and the play is stopped and your teammates can get back and help)
  60. Rabona – kicking the ball behind the standing leg; crossing one’s leg behind to kick the ball, many times used to confuse, trick and show off (a favorite move of players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho)
  61. Sending off – when a player receives a red card and must leave the field
  62. Shepherding – steering a player in one direction, usually into a supporting defender
  63. Sombrero – flicking, juggling, or scooping the ball over a defender’s head and maintain possession or going around the defender
  64. Square pass – a lateral pass or when you’re on a horizontal plan with a teammate (a square pass to keep possession)
  65. Striker – a forward or attacking player, goal scorer
  66. Superclasico – Spainish term used for the local rival match between River Plate and Boca Juniors, both of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  67. Sweeper – the last defensive player who doesn’t mark someone but remains free to clean up mistakes and cover other teammates
  68. Tackle – to attempt to win or steal the ball from your opponent
  69. Takeover – to exchange the ball with another teammate
  70. Through ball – play the ball in behind the defense when a player is making a run
  71. Tiki-taka – a style of soccer where you try to keep possession and play short and quick one and two touch passes; this is the way Barcelona and Spain play soccer
  72. Toe punch/Toe poke – kicking the ball with the toe; often the toe is used in recreational soccer, incorrectly of course, but the toe punch is actually used at the highest level to score a surprise goal by shooting quickly with the toe
  73. Tuck-in – term usually used on defense when you want a player to move in and closer to the rest of the team so your team can maintain a compact unit that’s hard to break down or get through
  74. Touch the ball around the defender – when dribbling hard at an opponent, and you have the momentum and the defender is coming in too fast, you touch the ball to the side and around the on rushing defender and continue on
  75. Two foot – a hard, dirty tackle where a player slides in with two feet, and usually from behind
  76. Two-touch – play the ball after touching the ball twice (to keep the game flowing – a drill in practice to make sure you are playing the ball quickly)
  77. Upper V – where the goal post and the cross bar meet (a goal that hits this area and is nearly unstoppable)
  78. Wall – for a free kick, defensive players line up side by side ten yards in front of the ball (to block an area of the goal and help the goalkeeper)
  79. Whip it in – cross the ball into the box at pace so it’s easier for the player to redirect the ball on goal
  80. Wing back a wide defender or back who typically will overlap the outside midfielder to create a 2 V 1  situation
  81. Winger – a wide midfielder who pushes into the attack