Baffled by balls? Confused by cards? Can’t tell your offside from backside? Have no fear. I’m here to give you definitions of footballing terms you might be coming across in the current exciting 2016 tournament. Whether a football virgin or somebody wanting to brush up on the lingo, use this handy guide.
12th Man: A term used by players, coaches, managers and commentators to refer to the effect that supporters have on influencing the game. Support can spur players on, even against all odds, to put in a performance. The fans, effectively, become the 12th man.
50-50 ball: Two players going for a ball at the same time where each has equal chance of winning it.
A Bosman: discussed in relation to a player’s career, this refers to a player leaving one club and signing for another as a free agent. His contract expires, has refused (or not been offered) a new one and is free to seek a new club. This was a UEFA ruling around 20 years ago and applies to transfers between EU member state clubs. Named after the player who took his former club to court, claiming he was a free agent and therefore could sign for whomever he pleased.
Back Pass: When the defender passed the ball back to the goalkeeper, did you wonder why the goalie didn’t pick it up? He is not allowed to – it’s against the rules. They can only pick up a back pass from an opponent or an “accidental back pass”. The referee alone gets to decide whether such a back pass was accidental.
Backheel: When a player skilfully uses the back of the foot to pass the ball to a team member. Usually, they cannot see where they are passing it as they are kicking it backwards, and are hoping a team member picks it up.
Ball boy (or girl): A young person employed to stand at the side of the pitch and throw the ball back to players for a throw in.
Box: The penalty area
Booking: See “yellow card”.
Brace (scoring a): A single player scoring two goals in one game.
Caps: Appearances for one’s country. Although not done any more, players who won an international “cap” for the home countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – were once given a cap (a type of hat) with the details of the game.
Caution: See “yellow card”.
Chip: A soft kick with a high trajectory but little distance or power. Often used in a goal attempt.
Clean sheet: When a team succeeds in not conceding a goal in a game.
Clearance: When a player (usually a defender) kicks a ball hard and long with no destination in mind. The point is to simply get the ball out of a position where it presents a danger to his side.
Club: The team the player plays for every week during a season. The club will pay his/her wages.
Diving (A bookable offence): Pretending an opponent has fouled you by falling over while he tries to tackle you.
Dummy: Pretending to go one way with the ball but going the other, thereby fooling the opponent.
Formation: How the players are organised on the field of play. Defined numerically (4-4-2 for example denotes 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 attackers)
Giant killing: When an underdog team beats one of higher perceived skill or ability.
Golden Boot: The trophy given to the player who scores the most goals in a tournament.
Hat trick: A single player scoring three goals in one game.
Howler: When a player should have scored, but misses quite badly. He might miss an open goal or “sky it”
In the back pocket: Where a player marks his opponent out of the game, he is said to have put that player “in his back pocket” (out of sight, out of mind).
Injury Time (Stoppage Time or Added Time): Whatever you call it, and the first is a slightly older term, is the amount of time specified in minutes by the fourth official. This is added at the end of each half to make up for time used on bookings, seeing to injuries and wasted time.
Long ball: notice how most teams play lots of short passes, keeping the ball and work it up the field? That will be for squads with lots of highly skilled players. Teams with less skill may focus on fitness and play the long ball. This means long passes, whacking it up field to one or two key players.
Magic Sponge: it really is magic. Watch a severely injured player recover in minutes after he had had treatment with the physio’s magic sponge. In truth, they will often go down to stall for time. Pretending to be injured is all part of the game.
Man on: A call from fans or team mates warning a player than an opponent is close.
Marking: The manner by which players keep their opponents in check, preventing them getting the ball or playing their game. They will stick to them throughout the game, rarely leaving their side.
Nutmeg: Yes it is a spice, but not in football. For some reason, this is the term used for when a player passes the ball through the open legs of an opponent, goes around him, and collects the ball on the other side.
Parking the bus: This is a metaphor and it means total defence. When one team has the lead and wants to defend it, all players will sit back, keep the ball and defend. A bit like parking a bus in front of the goal so nothing can get past it.
Penalty: When a player is fouled inside the larger box in front of the goal. All players except one nominated penalty taker gets behind the ball. He will face off directly against the goalkeeper from the centre spot of the penalty box.
Playing the advantage: Did you spot a clear foul but the play went on? Chances are, the referee let the offended team “play the advantage”. This means they have the ball and can benefit more from playing on than stopping the game and pulling it back for a free kick.
Playing deep: you expect to see the defenders and the midfielders hold a certain line. When they play farther back towards their goal than expected, they are said to be “playing deep”. This can be risky as it invites pressure from the opponents, but it can be a great way to build a counter attack.
Red Card: When presented to a player, they are ordered off of the field for the rest of the game. it means they have either committed a second “yellow card” offence or have committed a terrible offence worthy of immediate dismissal.
Set piece: When the game is stopped and it will not commence until the side with the advantage has their free shot. Corners, free kicks and dead balls are all set pieces.
Skying it: When a ball is hit very high over the bar that it goes into the stand or even outside the stadium. A common phrase is “it’ll have snow on it when it eventually comes down again”.
Suspension: When a player is banned from playing a certain number of games because he has conceded too many yellow and red cards.
Thrashing: winning by a large margin. In the world cup two years ago, Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1. The score was unexpected as Brazil are multiple world cup winners. Germany too are a great side and this result was expected to be much closer.
Utility player: A player who is a bit of a unicorn in that he or she can play almost anywhere on the field.
Volley: As in any other sport, this is hitting the ball when it is in the air, typically for a shot on goal.
Yellow card: A booking or caution. A bad foul that results in a warning and a mark against their disciplinary record.