Talking About Football in English

It’s the FIFA World Cup, and people around the world are going football crazy. But do you know how to talk about football (or soccer, if you’re American) in English? Here are some useful words and phrases to help you talk about football.

player (n) – the general term for the people in the football teams.
My favourite football player is Messi. 

forward (n) – the players at the front of the team. They usually try to score goals.
Ronaldo is one of the best forwards in the world. 

midfielder (n) – the players in the middle of the team.
The midfielder passed the ball to the forward. 

defender (n) – the players at the back of the team. They try to protect the goal from the other team.
The Japanese defenders played really well – Colombia could only score one goal. 

goalkeeper (n) – the player protecting the goal. He can pick the ball up with his hands.
The goalkeeper caught the ball in his hands. 

referee (n) – the person who checks to see the teams are playing fairly. He has a whistle and some red and yellow cards.
The referee gave both players a yellow card. 

linesman (n) – these people stand at the side of the pitch and help the referee make decisions.
The linesman said that the throw-in should go to Mexico. 

pitch (n) – the grass rectangle where people play football.
The pitch was really wet after the rain. 

goal (n) – 1) the net that the team has to kick the ball into to score points
2) a point
1) The striker kicked the ball past the keeper and into the goal.
2) The striker scored a goal. 

nil (n) – zero. We use this when talking about the score of a match. For example, 3-0 is pronounced three – nil.
Panama lost to Belgium three – nil. 

foul (n) (v) – when somebody breaks the rules of the game, usually by hitting or obstructing another player.
James fouled the other player. The foul on the player was really bad. 

penalty (n) – a free kick at the goal from the penalty spot – the white spot on the pitch just in front of the goal. This is given when there is a foul inside the box.
Japan were given a penalty. Kagawa took the penalty and scored Japan’s first goal in the 2018 World Cup. 

box (n) – the rectangular area in front of the goal.
Messi scored from just outside the box. 

free kick (n) – if there is a foul, play stops and a player can kick the ball without being tackled.
Ronaldo’s free kick against Spain was amazing. 

spectators (n) / crowd (n) / supporters (n) – the people watching the game.
Japan scored and the crowd cheered.  

to tackle (v) – to take the ball from a player on the opposite team.
You shouldn’t tackle someone from behind. 

to pass (v) – to kick the ball to another player on your team.
Harry Kane passed the ball to Raheem Stirling. 

to shoot (v) – to kick the ball at the goal.
He shoots, he scores! 

to score (a goal) (v) – to score a point.
Messi scored from just outside the box. 

to save the ball (v) – to stop the ball going into the net. Usually the goalkeeper does this.
Pickford dived to his left and saved the ball.

to be sent off (v) – if a player commits a very bad foul, or they get two yellow cards, they are sent off. They have to leave the pitch for the rest of the game.
The Colombian player was sent off in the first three minutes. 

We hope these words were useful. Why don’t you try using them to talk about the last football game you watched?