World Cup primer: Learn the lingo, where to watch

  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 10:47 AM

A man kicks a soccer ball on the shores of Beira Mar, in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch the World Cup soccer tournament that kicks off in Sao Paulo, Thursday.

Photo: Fernando Llano, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Fan-miliar words come with a new context thanks to these soccer-centric turns of phrase:

Pitch: It’s not a field, it’s a pitch, at least for Brits and Anglophiles, who also use “pitch” in rugby and cricket.

Tackle: To use one’s feet to take the ball from an opponent’s feet.

Mark: To stick closely to an offensive player.

Nutmeg: To pass the ball, often to one’s self, between an opponent’s legs.

Bicycle kick: A kick in which a player does a somersault to get his feet at head level to shoot or pass the ball. Do not try this at home.

Own goal: To score for the other team.

Group of Death: The most fearsome four-team group in the tournament.

Cap: An appearance in an international match, e.g., “Clint Dempsey has 63 caps.”


It’s called “futbol” worldwide, but some unusual aspects differentiate it from “our” football and other sports:

Dimensions: Unlike a U.S. football field, international futbol does not have uniform dimensions for the pitch. FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) rules allow for lengths of 100 to 110 meters and widths of 64 to 75 meters.

Added time: There are no timeouts during the 45-minute halves, but the official can extend each half based on the amount of downtime that occurred when a player was injured. Also called “injury time.”

Advantage rule: Play usually stops after a foul, but the official can choose to allow play to continue after a defensive foul if he feels that calling the penalty would be unfair to the offense.

Offside: It’s different from hockey. In soccer, a player is “offside” (always singular) when he is behind every defender (except the goalkeeper) when someone passes to him.

Out of bounds: This is called only when the entire ball is outside the sideline or goal line. A player standing outside the line can kick the ball as long as it is not over the line. The same principle applies on goals; to score, the ball must be completely inside the goal line.

Set piece: After a foul, play is stopped and the team gets a “free kick” from the spot of the foul. And when the ball goes past the goal line and was last touched by the defense, the other team gets a “corner kick.” Both are called “set pieces.”

Subs: Teams get three substitutions per game. Once a player leaves the game, he cannot re-enter.

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