Basic football terminology

Football phrases: 101 slang terms, idioms and meanings explained

Football has a language of its own and some of the words in the lexicon of The Game #1 can be confusing, particularly for the uninitiated.

There are lots of descriptive technical phrases and most terms have a logical explanation, though the origins of some are simply baffling.

If you’re new to the game and trying to figure out the lingo or simply need a refresher, we bring you the meaning behind most football slang terms, idioms and phrases from A to Z.

Against the run of play

When a goal is described as being scored «against the run of play» it means it was scored by a team that has not been in control of the match.

Example: «We were on top for the first 15 minutes and then conceded against the run of play. That really took the wind out of our sails, but we managed to get back into it and get the win.»

 

All ball

This is said when a player attempts to tackle the ball, and connects with the ball rather than the player’.

Anti-football

Football is commonly referred to as ‘The Beautiful Game’, so anti-football is when a team’s style of play is cynical, defensive and, in some cases, violent. The term is understood to have been first used to describe the performance of Argentine club Estudiantes in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup final against Manchester United.

Example: Commenting on the 2010 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain, Johan Cruyff said: «This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football

Away goals rule

The ‘away goals rule‘ used to be a method of deciding the winner of a two-legged tie in the event of an aggregate draw. If the tie finishes 2-2 on aggregate, the team with the most goals scored away from home wins.

Example: «Lucas Moura’s incredible second-half hat-trick saw Tottenham snatch a 3-2 win at Ajax and a place in the Champions League final on away goals.»

Starting from 2021 international football season this rule has been made void by FIFA.

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