World Cup 2022: a handy glossary of terms

The US is great. Except in the euphonious field of football, where it’s fair to say that the US is “great”. Then again, nobody ever says that because we Americans aren’t great at all – let alone exceptional – when it comes to football, a no un-American football, at least not on the men’s side. Heading into the World Cup that started in Qatar this week, our national team finished a modest 16th place from FIFA, which in case you didn’t know is short for Federation of Immoral Financial Arrangements.

Our boys drew 1-1 with Wales on Monday in their opening game of a quadrennial tournament that USA have never (had?) won. Brazil leads with five championships, Germany and Italy have four each, Argentina, France and Uruguay have two each, and England and Spain have one. We’re still attached to Bupkis, but maybe this is our year?

“When Ford F-450s fly,” scoffs the rest of the world.

If we’re going to shock the football world, those of us watching – or thinking about it – from home should at least understand what we’re hearing and seeing. To that end, here is a hopefully helpful glossary of World Cup and general football terms.

group stage: First, teams are split into eight groups of four for round-robin play, with the top two in each group advancing. Think of it as chasing the divisional rankings in baseball, only with a little less ripping on the White Sox.

KO phase: It’s a win-or-go home brace of the last 16 and the only time punches are allowed. Remember when a fool says you can’t use your hands in soccer.

Playback time: Usually it’s three or four extra minutes where nobody scores after 90 minutes where nobody scores.

extra time: It’s basically overtime – but not a sudden death – and only happens in the knockout stages. These are the most excruciating 30 minutes in football, not counting the “Beard After Hours” episode of “Ted Lasso.”

A textbook example of selling a foul.

A textbook example of selling a foul.

Benjamin Cremel/AFP via Getty Images

Sudden death: This occurs when a player brushes his calf very lightly – or not at all – and throws his body to the ground as if felled by a howitzer blast.

Penalties shoot: Tense and sometimes brutally cruel, it remains the punishment of a player who fails to catch an opponent pinning a “Kick Me” sign to the back of his pants.

Admit: It’s really just a fancy word for giving up a goal — and what not to do when you lose an election.

goal post: It comes into play when the network monitor, often a very tall man wearing gloves and an odd shirt, hits send on an Instagram photo or tweet.

Referee: This is the person who runs across the field with the players in a theatrical performance, throws admonishing looks and, for better or for worse, issues strict orders and only pauses to write entries in a kind of private diary.

Assistant Referees: They have one job, and that is to raise a tiny flag just above their head whenever something too exciting is happening.

Offside again?  come on man

Offside again? come on man

Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

Offside: This occurs when an offensive player is in the opponent’s half of the field and gets behind the defense before receiving the ball. But enough about the bears.

Yellow card: It’s like a personal foul in football, except there’s no 15-yard penalty and there’s a tremendous amount of acting involved.

Red card: Get one of these and your team will have to down a man for the rest of the game. It’s like a hockey team having to put up with a 20 or 30 minute penalty shootout with very little chance of getting hit.

Approach: This is one of the beauties of the game, a player sliding cleanly to separate the ball from an opponent. But beware: If someone gets too good at it, Ryan Poles will immediately try to trade it.

“What a ball!” That’s what someone in your middle shouts when a player makes a particularly good pass.

“What a passport!” That’s how someone in your midst, pretending to know football, yells when a player delivers a particularly good ball.

VAR: Soccer’s instant replay system is known by this acronym, which stands for Video Assistant Referee. Score another one for the damn robots over working men and women, right?

set piece: This is the term for a disappointing kick before which players from both teams waste a great deal of time pushing, shoving and haphazardly jostling for position in front of goal.

handball: It’s never good for one of your players to carelessly deflect the ball off any part of their outstretched arms. But enough about Bears receivers.

Golden Shoe: The top scorer of the World Cup receives this coveted award, the holy grail for the greatest players. Unfortunately, the USA have never won the boot either. And that makes us the definition of “overdue.”


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