The Ultimate English Vocabulary Guide For Football / Soccer

Sport is a great topic to talk about with any friend if you’re passionate about it.

Why not use it as a chance to learn more English vocabulary?

Here are all the football words and phrases you need to know to communicate with your friends better.

Please note that this post focuses more on British English rather than American English.

Essential English Soccer / Football Vocabulary for ESL Learners

General Vocabulary

essential vocabulary guide football soccer assistant referee

Assistant referee: (Noun) This is the person who runs up and down the football pitch (field). Their job is to tell the referee if the ball goes out. They are also important when it comes to helping with offside decisions. In the past, this person’s job was called a ‘linesman.’

The assistant referee held up his flag to show the referee that the ball was still in play.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer attacker

Attacker: (Noun) The role of an attacker in a team is to score goals. Another word for an attacker is a forward.

Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona, is one of the world’s best attackers. He has great skill and can move quickly towards the goal.

Away game: (Noun) When the team has to travel to another team’s stadium to play the match.

Philip hates traveling for away games. He always gets really tired and never plays well.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer corner

Corner: (Noun) This is a free kick from any of the four corners of the pitch.

When the goalkeeper touched the ball, the referee awarded the other team a corner kick.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer changing room

Locker room: (Noun) The area where teams meet and change into their football uniforms.

The players sat in the locker room while they listened to their coach speak.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer defender

Defender: (Noun) A defender is a player who tries to stop the other team from scoring a goal.

England always does well in the World Cup matches because of their strong defenders.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer draw

Draw: (Verb/Noun) When the final score is the same (e.g. 1-1).

The game ended in a draw, and the final score was 2-2.

Equalizer: (Noun) When one player scores a goal and the score becomes equal (the same).

In the last minute, Marcello was able to run past the defense and score an equalizer. The final score of the game was 1-1.  

Extra time: (Noun) An important game is made longer when it finishes in a draw.

They were lucky the game went into extra time because they ended up winning.

Fit: (Adjective) From the word fitness. If a player is fit they are in good form and are okay to play. Check this post out to learn more fitness related English vocabulary words.

Michael needs to get fit over the summer otherwise he will not be chosen for the team.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer foul

Foul: (Noun) When a player does an illegal action such as touching the ball with their hands. They are punished and the other team is awarded a free kick.

When one player pushed a player from the opposite team, the referee blew his whistle. He then gave the other team a free kick for the foul.

Full-time: (Noun) When the final whistle is blown and the game is over.

The referee blew his whistle three times to tell everyone it was full-time.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer goalkeeper

Goalkeeper: (Noun) The player who stands between the goal posts and tries to stop the ball from entering the goal.

The goalkeeper for France dived to the ground and saved Ronaldo’s shot.

Half-time: (Noun) The short break after the first half of the game is played.

The players ran off the pitch and had a meeting during half-time.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer handball

Handball: (Noun) This is a kind of foul when a player deliberately touches the ball with his hand or arm.

It’s always controversial when the referee calls a handball, because players can say the ball touched them by accident.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer header

Header: (Noun) To hit the ball with the head instead of the foot.

Ronaldo’s teammate passed the ball high to him. He jumped up and managed to score a goal with a header.

Home game: (Noun) When the team gets to play in their own territory. Opposite: Away game.

Most teams perform better when they have a home game.

Injury time: (Noun) Extra time at the end of half-time or full-time if there have been any injuries during the game.

Because Barcelona had two injured players, the game went into injury time at the end.

Kick off: (Verb/Noun) When the game begins.

Do you have any idea what time is kickoff?

essential vocabulary guide football soccer match

Match: (Noun) Another word for a game.

Who do you think is going to win the match?

 Midfielder: (Noun) A player who usually stays in the middle of the field.

Mesut Ozil is one of the best midfielders in the world.

Offsides: (Adjective/Noun) A football rule that states that when the ball is passed, there must be at least 2 defenders between the attacker from the other team and the goal line. If not, it is considered offsides and the player is punished.

The fans in the stadium shouted angrily when the referee blew his whistle to say that Messi was offsides; he had been very close to scoring a goal.

Pass: (Verb/Noun) To kick the ball to another player on your team.

Frank Lampard passed the ball to Beckham. Beckham kicked the ball and scored!


essential vocabulary guide football soccer penalty

Penalty kick: (Noun) A free kick.

Bale tackled another player illegally in the penalty area. As a result, the other team was given a penalty kick.

Penalty shootout: (Noun) If the game is still drawn (equal points) after extra time there is a best-out-of-five penalty kick competition. The team with the most goals wins the game.

The fans went silent as they nervously watched the penalty shootout between the two teams.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer pitch

Pitch: (Noun) The football field.

Because it had been raining for a couple of days, the pitch was muddy and difficult to play on.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer red card

Red card: (Noun) A punishment given by the referee. If a player does something bad, they are given a red card and sent off the field.

He was handed a red card for starting a fight with the other team and as a result, their team lost.

Shoot: (Verb) To try and score a goal by kicking.

Ronaldo shot the ball right into the back of the net to score the winning goal.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer spectator

Spectator: (Noun) A person who watches a game.

There weren’t many spectators at the game because of the rain.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer stands

Stands: (Noun) Where the fans sit in the stadium.

There was a lot of excitement in the stands as the fans cheered for their teams.

Striker: (Noun) A player who shoots the goals.

Lionel Messi is one of the best strikers in the world. He has scored the most goals ever for Barcelona.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer substitute

Substitute: (Sub) (Verb/Noun) To take one player off the field and replace them with another player.

When Sir Alex Ferguson saw that his players were getting tired, he always substituted them.

Tackle: (Verb) To try and take the ball from the opposite team using your feet.

When Mike tried to tackle the other player, he pushed him and he was given a yellow card and a warning.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer throw in

Throw in: (Verb/Noun) When the ball goes out, a player takes the ball and throws it to his teammate from outside over his head.

Jake stood on the line and quickly threw the ball in to his teammate..


essential vocabulary guide football soccer touchline

Touchline: (Noun) The longest sides of the pitch. These are also known as sidelines.

The manager and coach stood on the touchline shouting out instructions to their team.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer wall

Wall: (Noun) When the players of one team make a human wall to try and block a free kick.

The players made a wall as Lionel Messi went to shoot.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer yellow card

Yellow card: (Noun) The first warning that is given to a player when they do something seriously wrong before receiving a red card.

Bale needs to be more careful when playing because he’s already been given one yellow card.

Scoring Related Vocabulary

Do you find it difficult talking with your friends about the scores? Read on to learn some very useful soccer words that will help you communicate better.

Concede: (Verb) When the goalkeeper allows a goal to be scored.

England’s goalkeeper was criticized for the amount of goals he conceded.

Defeat: (Noun) To suffer a defeat means to lose the match/game.

It was evident that everyone was upset when Atletico Madrid suffered defeat.

Goal difference: (Noun) The goal difference is the difference in points/goals between the two teams. For example team A scored 3 goals and team B scored 1 goal so the goal difference is 2.

Because all of the teams in the Premier League are really strong, the goal difference is usually small.

Knock out (Phrasal Verb) If one team knocks out another team, they beat them. After this the losing team can no longer play in the tournament.

In the last World Cup, New Zealand was knocked out of the competition by Mexico.

(The) Lead: (Noun) If a team has the lead, then they are winning at the moment.

At the end of the first half Real Madrid were in the lead, but Chelsea won in the end.

Score: (Noun) The recorded number of goals that shows us who is winning the match.

I think the final score between Barcelona and Real Madrid will be 2-0.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer scoreboard

Scoreboard: (Noun) The board where the team’s goals are shown.

The time on the scoreboard shows there’s only 5 minutes left of the match.

Win: (Verb) If a team wins the match, it means that they have scored more goals than the other team.

I think that Brazil has the strongest football team in the world and they have a good chance of winning the 2014 World Cup.


Advanced English Soccer / Football Vocabulary

We’re not finished yet. Now you know the basics. Why not show off your real soccer/football knowledge with this more advanced football vocabulary?

Advantage: (Noun) The referee doesn’t always blow his whistle to stop the game when a foul has been committed. It may be unfair for the innocent team, so he lets the game continue.

The ref held up his hand to call advantage.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer bench

Bench: (Noun) The chairs where the substitute players sit. Phrase: On the bench.

Jack’s coach decided to keep him on the bench for being late to training.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer bicycle kick

Bicycle kick: (Noun) When the player kicks the ball backwards over his own head.

Ronaldo is famous for his bicycle kick. When he does it, the fans go crazy.

Booking: (Noun) To be given a yellow card to show a serious foul.

After two bookings for fighting with the other team, Jonathan was sent off.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer boot

Boot: (Verb) To kick.

Torres booted the ball across the pitch to his teammate.

Box: (Noun) The penalty area around the goal.

The opposition formed a line in the box to try and block Messi from scoring.

Coin toss: (Noun) Toss a coin: (Verb) At the beginning of the match the referee tosses a coin to see which team starts.

Jack’s team won the coin toss.  

Dead ball: This is when the game is stopped and the ball is not moving. All free kicks and penalty kicks must be taken from a dead ball.

When the ball was dead, Luis ran up to the ball and booted it.

Division: (Noun) Categories.

All the top teams of the UK are in the premier division (league).

Fixture: (Noun) Planned games.

All the World Cup fixtures are chosen out of a hat to make sure it’s completely fair.

Mark: (Verb) To mark a player means to guard them to try and stop them from receiving the ball from their teammate.

The manager shouted out to his players to mark the opposition.

Own goal: (Noun) When one player accidentally kicks the ball into their own goal.

The fans booed when John scored an own goal.

Pep talk: (Noun) A short talk of encouragement from the manager.

The players sat and listened to their coach give them a pep talk in the changing rooms.

Promotion: (Noun) Promote: (Verb) When a team does very well one season, they will play in a higher category next time.

Doncaster Rovers have always been one of the UK’s weaker teams, but after a successful season, they were promoted.

Rivals: (Noun) Enemy/opposition.

Manchester United and Manchester City have been rivals for years.

Relegation: (Noun) Relegate: (Verb) The opposite of promote/promotion. When one team do very poorly in one season, they are placed in a lower division.

After having a lot of bad luck last season, Hull was relegated.

Skipper: (Noun/Verb) Captain.

John Terry was chosen to skipper the English side for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer Scissor kick

Scissor kick: (Noun/Verb) When a player kicks his legs like a pair of scissors and passes the ball sideways to his teammate.

Ryan Giggs scissor kicked the ball skillfully to his teammate.

Spot kick: (Noun) Another word for a penalty because the ball is placed on a certain spot (place).

Beckham placed the ball down in preparation for his spot kick.

Transfer fee: (Noun) When a player is sold to another team, they must pay some money.

One of the highest transfer fees in football history was when Chelsea bought Fernando Torres.


English Vocabulary for Soccer / Football Equipment

Of course you all know that football requires a ball to play, but what about the other things that are needed to play?

essential vocabulary guide football soccer cleats

Cleats: (Noun) Cleats are small spikes (sharp things that stick out of the shoe) to help the players not slip. Another word for cleats is studs.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer gloves

Gloves: (Noun) The goalkeeper wears special gloves on their hands to catch the ball.

Goal posts: (Noun) The physical goal where the ball must travel through for a goal to be scored.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer jersey

Jersey: (Noun) The top that the player wears. It usually has their name and number on it.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer soccer kit

Kit: (Noun) The ‘football kit’ refers to the whole uniform that the player wears.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer net

Net: (Noun) The net is connected/attached to the goal posts. It stops the ball from flying everywhere.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer soccer socks

Soccer socks: (Noun) These are long socks that cover the players shin pads.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer shin pads

Shin-pads: (Noun) These are plastic covers that protect a player’s shins (the bottom part of the leg’s front ) from getting kicked.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer strip

Strip: (Noun) A team’s strip is the specially designed shirt with the team’s colors and sign.

Real Madrid’s strip is white, which I don’t think is very practical because it gets dirty easily.


English Vocabulary for Soccer / Football Commentary

It’s great being able to speak with your friends about a soccer match, but if you’re really a huge soccer fan then you need to understand the news as well. And of course you also have to understand the commentator.

Clinical finish: (Noun) A very well-controlled shot at goal that results in a goal.

David Beckham is one of the most skilled players in history. He is famous for his clinical finishes.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer commentator

Commentator: (Noun) The person who reports every move of the game while it is happening.

John Motson is one of the most famous British commentators.

Keep possession: (Verb) When one team plays well and has the ball more than the other team.

The Australia team is great at keeping possession, but they have difficulties scoring.

Long-ball game: (Noun) It is when a team continues to kick long passes. A long-ball game is very boring to watch. This is a negative term.

Sheffield Wednesday is playing their usual long-ball game.

One-touch football: (Noun) This is used in a way to show admiration for one team that successfully manages to pass the ball with only one touch.

As usual the Spanish team are showing off their skills at one-touch football. Look at them go!

Prolific goal scorer: (Noun) A player who is very successful in scoring goals in almost every game.

Ronaldo is a prolific goal scorer and it’s almost guaranteed that he will score a goal in every match.

Put eleven men behind the ball: (Phrase/verb) When a team is more interested in defending than scoring a goal.

The USA team isn’t doing much and are making very little effort to score. Their manager seems to have put eleven men behind the ball again.

Replay: (Verb/Noun) To show the video again to the TV viewers.

Let’s take a look at the replay of that fine goal scored by Lorrick Cana.

Underdog: (Noun) The team people think are going to lose.

Atletico Madrid surprised everyone with their win against Barcelona as they’ve always been the underdogs in the Spanish league.


English Vocabulary for Casual Football / Soccer Talk with Friends

Learn how to chat casually with your friends about a game you’re watching or playing with these cool English words and slang phrases.

Get stuck in: (Verb/phrase) To play hard with a lot of determination.

Look at those guys play! They’re really getting stuck in!

Have a lot of pace: (Verb/phrase) To be quick.

Look at Jane go!
Wow, she’s got a lot of pace, I’m impressed!
Yes, she sure is fast!

Have a sweet left foot: (Verb/phrase) To say that a person is very skilled at kicking and scoring with their left foot.

Man, did see that goal of Paul’s?
Yeah, he’s got a sweet left foot. I can’t even kick with my right foot like that!

Man on! (Noun) A warning that you can use to shout out to your teammate to tell him that another player is right behind them.

Jose screamed “man on” when he saw a player from the opposition behind Marcello.

Pull off a great/amazing save: (Verb/phrase) To be able to save a ball that many people expected to be a goal.

Peter’s one of the best goalkeepers ever. He’s always able to pull of great saves.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer goal

Put it in the back of the net: (Verb/Phrase) To score a goal.

Sam is always able to put the ball in the back of the net.

We were robbed! (Phrase/expression) You use this phrase when you believe the game was unfair.

The referee was totally biased and sided with the other team. We should have won, we were robbed!

English Soccer / Football Vocabulary for the World Cup

Do you want to be able to discuss the Football World Cup in more detail with your friends? Check out some the more specific vocabulary related to the FIFA World Cup.

Broadcast: (Noun/Verb) When a live event on TV, online or radio is played.

Were you able to watch the live broadcast of the match between Brazil and Spain?


essential vocabulary guide football soccer pitch fever

Fever pitch: (Noun) An extremely high level of excitement in the crowd.

The Real Madrid fans reached fever pitch as they scored the equalizing goal in the last few seconds of the match.

Group stage: (Noun) The period/time of a tournament when the teams compete in groups to see who will go to the next round.

Croatia, Cameroon, Brazil and Mexico make up group A of the FIFA world cup 2014. I predict Brazil will be the winner of the group.

Host country: (Noun) The country where an international event such as the World Cup or the Olympic Games will be held.

The host country for the 2018 World Cup is Russia.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer national team anthem

National anthem: (Noun) The song of a country.

All players proudly sing their national anthem before playing an international match.

National team: A team that represents the country.

Spain has one of the strongest national teams in the world.

Knockout stage: (Noun) A time of the tournament when teams are eliminated (no longer allowed to play) if they lose.

They can’t lose a game in the knockout stage. This is too important!

Qualify: (Verb) To be able to score enough wins or points to compete in the international event.

This year Albania did not qualify to take part in the 2014 games.

Quarter-finals: (Noun) The final four matches to see which teams will make it to the semi-finals.

There are some strong teams in this year’s quarter-final.

Runners-up: (Noun) The team who comes 2nd in a tournament.

Atletico Madrid were runners-up in the 2014 Champions League.

Semi-finals: (Noun) A round of two games to see which two teams are going to qualify for the final.

Every team plays their hardest in the semi-finals because it’s a great honor to reach the finals.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer sponsor

Sponsor: (Noun/Verb) A company or individual that gives money to the organization to help pay for the costs of the event.

One of the official sponsors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is Coca-Cola.

The finals: (Noun) The final/finishing rounds of a tournament that include the quarter and semi-finals.

The finals of the 2014 Champions League were dominated by Spain and England.

The final: (Noun) The last match of the tournament to see who the winner of the championship will be.

The Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid was a very exciting match.


essential vocabulary guide football soccer trophy

Trophy: (Noun) The winner’s cup that is given to the winning team to show their success.

The team held up the trophy excitedly to show appreciation to their fans.


Enjoy the fever pitch of this year’s 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Have fun and may the best team win!

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