Soccer Definitions & Slang Terms

Soccer Definitions: Here’s a list of soccer / football terms and slang used to describe certain aspects of the game and things that happen in soccer. Some terms are more common than others, while some are only used in certain countries. Let’s help you understand all the different types of soccer / football lingo that’s used all over the world to describe and talk about the beautiful game.

For instance, a brace is when someone scores two goals, but that’s a term used more in England. And then you have the more standard soccer terms that are used to describe strategy and tactics in a soccer / football game, such as an overlap or a wall pass or a through ball. And then there are terms more related to style of play, like Barcelona’s Tiki Taka. If there’s a soccer term about soccer / football that’s missing from this list please let us know. Here are the most common soccer definitions you’ll need to know if you’re a soccer fan.

Advantage rule – 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) see advantage rule explanation here.

Area chica – Spanish term for the six yard box in front of the goal

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)

Ballon d’Or – European Footballer of the Year

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

Brace – when a player scores two goals

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

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

Check – to ask for the ball or make a run checking back to receive the ball

Chilena – name for an over head kick or bicycle kick in Latin America

Clasico – Spanish term for when local rivals are playing one another

Clean sheet – when a keeper doesn’t allow the opposing team to score

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)

Closing down – putting pressure on an offensive player so they have no space or time to operate

Capocannoniere – nickname for the top scorer in the Italian Serie A

Clean sheet – when a keeper doesn’t let in a goal

Cover – supporting the player closing down an opponent (the second and third defenders who cover the first player to help win the ball)

Crack – slang term often used in Spain for a soccer / football star; someone who has amazing talent, skills and potential in the game

Dead ball – a free kick

Derby – game against a cross town rival

Diagonal ball – just what it is, a cross field pass or diagonal ball that opens up the game

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

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)

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.

Dummy – Letting the ball go past or through your legs to a teammate.

Dummy run – A run by player without the ball to draw a defender away

Far post – the goalpost farthest from where you are positioned (refers to runs made into the goal box – near and far post runs)

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

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 – usually term used more by English soccer/football announcers, but it’s when someone makes a surprising mistake or blunder – often the goalkeeper, when they miss an easy save

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)

Get stuck in – to make a hard tackle that sets a tone or makes a statement that your team is there to play

Goalaso – Spanish for incredible goal.

Golden goal – A goal scored in overtime which ends the match.

Half volley – striking the ball just after it hits the ground

Handbagging – when players are fighting on the field but just throwing soft punches or slaps, like old ladys throwing their handbags

Hat-trick – three goals in one game by one player

Header – to hit the ball with the head

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)

Howler – a stupid or glaring mistake, especially an amusing one; like when a goalkeeper misjudges a shot that he should save

Indirect kick – a free kick where a teammate must touch the ball before you can score

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)

In-swinger – a cross that is bending towards the goal mouth and not away from the goalkeeper

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

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)

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

Near post – the goalpost closest to you (refers to runs made into the goal box – near and far post runs)

Nutmeg – To put the ball between an opponent’s legs

Offside – beyond the second to last defender and involved in the play

Olympic goal – scoring directly from a corner kick; bending the ball into the goal right from a corner

One-touch – playing the ball with just one touch

Onion bag – the goal or net

Out swinger – a cross that is bending away from the goal

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)

Own goal – goal scored by your own team (accidental goal or deflection for instance)

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

Pedalada – step over move; Robinho is the master of this move and usually does a series of step overs before beating the defender

Perfect hat-trick – when a soccer player scores one right-footed goal, one left-footed goal and one headed goal all within the same game

Pichichi – the player who finishes the La Liga season with the most goals; the top goal scorer in Spain’s top soccer league

PK – penalty kick

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)

Playmaker – the player who directs the offensive attack and controls the game (everything goes through this player, a player like Zidane)

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)

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)

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)

Sending off – when a player receives a red card and must leave the field

Shepherding – steering a player in one direction, usually into a supporting defender

Sombrero – flicking, juggling, or scooping the ball over a defender’s head and maintain possession or going around the defender

Square ball – a lateral pass or when you’re on a horizontal plan with a teammate (a square pass to keep possession); just a simple pass to a player is right alongside you or even with you – so the ball doesn’t go forward or back; usually just a safe pass to keep the ball

Striker – a forward or attacking player, goal scorer

Squeaky bum time – the phrase refers to when, as a fan, you’re nervously waiting for the soccer game to end and you’re moving around in your seat and can’t sit still; mainly used in England

Super Clasico – Spanish term used for the local rival match between River Plate and Boca Juniors, both of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sweeper – the last defensive player who doesn’t mark someone but remains free to clean up mistakes and cover other teammates

Tackle – to attempt to win or steal the ball from your opponent

Takeover – to exchange the ball with another teammate

Through ball – play the ball in behind the defense when a player is making a run

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

Toe punch – 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

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

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

Two foot – a hard, dirty tackle where a player slides in with two feet, and usually from behind

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)

Upper V – where the goal post and the cross bar meet (a goal that hits this area and is nearly unstoppable)

VAR – video assistant referee is a match official in association soccer/football who reviews decisions made by the center referee through video footage and a headset for communication

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)

Whip it in – cross the ball into the box at pace so it’s easier for the player to redirect the ball on goal

Winger – a wide midfielder who pushes into the attack and keeps the width for the team when they have possession