arrow-down arrow-to-left arrow-to-right arrow-up bc-left check delete download facebook google-plus home map menu print search smiling three-lines top-left twitter youtube
July 2018

Football Slang for the World Cup

Useful Phrases from Around the World

Now that the World Cup is in full force, it's unlikely that anyone has time for anything else. But if you happen to be between matches, it’s a good moment to refresh yourself on some football (or soccer, if you’re American) lingo.

Every country has its own unique football terms and slang, so it makes sense to learn some phrases in different languages to help you cheer for other teams (especially if your team is out).


Throwing a bomb - To throw a bomb means to complete a deep pass that takes the ball across a large part of the football field.

The trenches - This is a reference to battlefield trenches in which soldiers fight each other to gain ground. Similarly, in football, “the trenches” refers to the area between the defensive and offensive lines.

Busted play - When things don't go as planned, it might be a busted play. In the chaos of the game, sometimes predefined strategies don't go as planned.

Nutmeg - The technique of kicking the ball cleanly between an opposing player's legs is called a nutmeg. This term isn't reserved solely for football but applies also to other sports, such as hockey and basketball.


Ran an die Pille! - Literally translated as "go for the pill", this exclamation can be used to cheer your team on to go for the ball.

Der Hexenkessel - What exactly is the "witch's cauldron"? Why, the home stadium of the opposing team, of course.

Der Schlachtenbummler - A "battle stroller" is a fan who travels to support a team, a truly devoted fan.

Kleinklein - Perhaps not the best of strategies, this phrase is used when players pass the ball without any play in mind. It literally translates as "small, small".

Den Ball im Tor versenken - To "dump the ball in the goal" means exactly what you'd think: to score a goal.


Píntalo de amarillo - Literally translated as “paint him yellow”, this phrase refers to the yellow penalty card and can be used against an opposing player when you feel your beloved team was infringed upon.

Tiki-taka (or tiqui-taca) - A technique of zonal play in which players make short passes of the ball between players. It’s associated with football in Spain and was first used in live commentary during a Spain-Tunisia match in 2006, in which Spain's controlled passing style was referred to as "tiki-taka, tiki-taka".

Tuya, mía, te la presto, acaríciala, como se acaricia a la novia (Mexico) - Literally translated as "Yours, mine, you can borrow it, caress her like a girlfriend", this phrase was started by a famous Mexican sports commentator to refer to the tiki-taka technique employed in handling the ball.

Leña/leñazo - To give someone "wood" means a player really fouled another. One might say "le dio una leña" ("he gave him a wood").

Pegarla en en el palo (Costa Rica) - Hitting a post instead of making a goal might garner this phrase in Costa Rica. Outside of football, it also refers to when someone almost succeeds at something.


Lisciare - This verb literally means “to smooth” or “to polish”. As a football term, it is used when someone misses the ball when attempting to shoot.

Papera - This noun means either “duck” or a “gaffe”, and for football it's the latter definition that takes precedence. It’s used when a player commits a mistake that allows a goal.

Falciare - This verb means “to mow”, “to cut”. When a player tackles another, you might hear it used.

Gollonzo - It’s uttered when a strange deflection leads to a surprising goal, a great moment for the scoring team.

Tunnel - Nutmeg


Pipoqueiro - A poor player might be called a "popcorn man" for failing to perform during an important match.

Perna de pau - A player who can't control the ball while dribbling might be said to have "wooden legs".

Matador - A real "killer" on the field is a player who scores many goals.

Caneta/janelinha/gaia/carinha/rolinho - Nutmeg


Stofzuiger - A midfielder playing defense might be called a "vacuum cleaner" by some.

Ziekenhuisbal - A pass that's unwell could be called a "hospital ball" because it was made so poorly.

Chocoladebeen - Much like how wooden legs might describe a poor player, having a "chocolate leg" refers to a player with a weak foot. It might also be the first time “chocolate” is used in a negative context.

Draak van een wedstrijd - Feeling bored? A "dragon of a game" refers to a really dull match. Perhaps dragons are a common sight in the Netherlands...

What are some slang phrases you use while watching football in your native language? Which teams are you cheering for? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more language learning articles!