football terminologies

19 Football (Soccer) Terminologies, Every Football fan should know

by Raja Mehar

Football or Soccer, as some people call it, is the most played game in the world. It is played in about almost every country of the world. FIFA, which is the governing body of sport has 210 members, which is more than United Nations (UN).

Just like any other sport, football also has it terminologies, which are inherent to describing the style or any aspect of game.

Following is a list of 19 football or soccer terminologies which are used in the game very extensively.


So, what is a brace in soccer?

The thing is, when a singular player scores three goals in a match, that is called hat-trick.

And, when a player scores two goals in a single game, that is called brace.

Unlike other games like cricket, where hat-trick only counts when you bowl out three players in consecutive three balls, in football order does not matter. You score a goal and then someone else scores a goal and then you score your second goal in the game, that is still considered a brace.

2. 12th MAN

The term 12th man is used in two meanings.

Mostly, it is used to describe the fans who watch the game from the stands, as they make too much noise and really support the home team with their songs and chants. It is a huge thing in football and fan’s support AKA 12th man is the reason why most teams perform much better at home, as they do in away games.

However, it is also sometimes used to describe an unfair referee who makes biased decisions, like saying “they had a 12th man on the pitch”.

However, generally it refers to the fans.

3. 4th Place Trophy

Uefa Champions League is the biggest trophy in club competition in Europe.

So, qualifying for the coveted trophy is a great honor for any club. And, in top 5 European leagues which are English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Seria A and French Ligue 1, teams occupying top four positions qualify for Uefa Champions League.

Therefore, the term “4th Place Trophy”. The term was coined by legendery Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger.

4. Away Goals Rule

Well, what is the away goals rule in footbal?

So, in most of tournaments whether domestic or at any other level in club competitions, two matches are played between teams in knockout stages. One match in home ground of one team and the other in home ground of other. These matches are called first and second legs.

So, what happens if the overall/aggregate score of both teams in both legs is equal, then the team with more away goals, which are scored in opponent’s home ground wins.

So, let’s explain this by an example from the real world when away goals rule decided the winner. In 2017/18 Uefa Champions League quarter final stage, Spanish Club FC Barcelona was paired with Italian club Roma. First leg was played at Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelone where hosts scored 4 goals, and Roma scored 1. In second leg, which was played at Stadio Olympico, the home of Roma, Roma scored 3 goals and FC Barcelona failed to score any goal.

Now, overall goal tally was 4 goals for both teams, so now away goals rule came into play. As, Roma also had an away goal which scored at Camp Nou, they qualified to the next round.

5. Box-to-Box Player

What is a box-to-box player?

A box-to -box player is a midfielder, who has the ability to play as an attacking force creating chances for the forward, as well as the ability to drop back and defend alongside center backs in defensive scenario.

Usually Center Defender Midfielders of Simple Midfielders perform this role.

Liverpool Legend Steven Gerrard and German Legend Bastian Schweinstieger are great examples of box-to-box midfielders.

6. Catenaccio

Catenaccio, meaning “the chain” in Italian is a tactical football system.

Catenaccio emphasizes on strong defense.

The system was originated in Switzerland, in Geneva, in Club Servette under their coach Karl Rappan. However, it really flourished when it was came to Italy.

In Italy, it was used by various clubs, but most famously by Internazionale Milan under their coach Helenio Herrera.

Catenaccio System

At that time, most of teams in Europe were using 2-3-5 formation, but in Karl Rappan started using four defenders, where two central defenders make the central wall and one of them would shift to the side from where the opposition is attacking.

Two wing backs would be in charge of only one job, that is stopping the wingers.

Catenaccio style of football is the reason Italian Football league, the Serie A is known for its defenders and Italians have produced world class defenders like Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro.

7. Chip Shot

Chip Shot is, when the attacker shoots a ball in such a way that it makes a trajectory over the goalkeeper or in some occasions defenders too, and falls into the net.

Chip Shot is virtually impossible to stop, however, it is one of the most difficult skill to pull off on the football field.

It is also sometimes called as lobbed shot.

Lionel Messi is considered to be the best at pulling off the chip shot.


Named after Mexican Footballer Cuauhtemoc Blanco, cuauhtemina is a skill move which was signature to this famous player.

Blanco most famously pulled off this skill in 1998 World Cup in France.

So, the trick is when more than one defenders were trying to close the spaces for Blanco, he used to hold the ball between his feet and then jumped and threw the ball up with feet, making it land in space and then controlled the ball once again.

Blanco’s Cuauhtemina

9. Dead Ball/Set Pieces

Dead Ball situation or Set Pieces are situations in which the game is to be resumed with ball being stationary initially.

They include Free Kicks, Goal Kicks, Corner Kicks and Penalty Kicks.

10. Derby

The term “Derby” is used to refer to the match between teams that are each other’s rivals, whether on continental level or domestic.

However, mostly the term is used to describe local rivalries like the Merseyside rivalry between Liverpool and Everton in England or Madrid Derby between Real Madrid and Atletico De Madrid in Spain.

11. False Nine

False nine is a player who is a striker, usually center forward but some wide players also step into this role.

False nine, on the paper is a forward but often he drops back to midfield where takes up ball and plays as a midfielder and when need goes up once again. This creates a problem for center defenders whose job is man mark the center forward mostly and they often go ahead when false nine drops back, creating space for wingers who are usually set up for goal by false nine.

Lionel Messi is best example of this style, which is the reason he also manages to get high number of assists (pass that leads to goal) for a forward player.

False nine has to be best in passing as well as finishing when needed. Plus, the he has to play with mind not just with feet.

12. Ghost Goal or Phantom Goal

Ghost goal or sometimes the phantom goal, is the name given to the goal which is awarded wrongly even when the ball is not crossed into the net, or the goal which is not awarded even when the ball has crossed into the net.

These occurrences have been greatly reduced with the introduction of VAR into the game.

13. Group of Death

In competitions where include a group stage is involved, some groups often end up having all or high number of good teams. This group is called group of death, where one good team has to suffer the exit in early stages. Also, it often ends up with creation of another group whose all teams are not good and favourites to win the trophy.

Its example can be seen in 2019/20 Uefa Champions League where group F can be called “Group of Death”, which contained three good teams likes of FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Praha. Among these four only Slavia Praha is considered a weaker team.

14. Mickey Mouse Cup

The term “Mickey Mouse Cup” is used to refer to the competitions that do not hold much value, like UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup etc.

The term was coined by Manchester United Fans to belittle their rivals Liverpool when they won League Cup,whereas Manchester United was consistently performing on European Stage and English Premier League.

15. Panenka

So, what is a Panenka in football?

Panenka can be considered a chipped penalty kick, where the penalty taker, instead of kicking the ball left or right as they normally do, gives a subtle touch to the ball and the ball makes a trajectory over the keeper or mostly keeper misjudges it and ball falls down in net.

The name “Panenka” is given as honor for its creator Antonin Panenka, who was a player for Czechoslovakia in 1970s.

16. Treble

What is a treble in Football?

A “treble” is achieved when a team wins three major trophies in a single season.

There is a continental treble and in some countries where there are three competitions domestically, domestic trebles.

Usually, in Europe, a treble is considered winning the domestic League, the domestic Cup and the Uefa Champions League. So far only seven clubs have ever managed to win a treble in Europe.

They are Celtic, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Ajax, Internazionale, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, with Barcelona being the only team to achieve this twice.

17. Total Football

Total football is a footballing philosophy, according to which every player on the field except the Goal-Keeper can play in every position on the field.

The system was popularized by Netherlands team that was runner up in 1974 Fifa World Cup.

In this system, a player moves out of his position and his place is picked up by another player from his team. In this way, overall structure of team remains organized, with team being fluid internally. This makes man-marking the players very difficult, as the opponents can’t keep track of who is striker and who is midfielder.

Ajax and FC Barcelona have used this system often in 1970s to 1990s, because of Netherland’s legend Johan Cruyff, who played for both clubs.

18. Tiki Taka

So, what is Tiki-Taka in Football?

Tiki Taka is a Spanish style of football, popularized by FC Barcelona under their coach Pep Guardiola.

It emphasizes on short and quick passes, along with quick movements off the ball and above all keeping possession, because opponents cannot score against you if they don’t get the ball.

Total Football, as described above laid the foundations for Tiki Taka.

The aim of Tiki Taka is making opponents tired with making them chase the ball, keeping the possession while keep looking for opportunities to put the ball in the net.

However, passing the ball, just for the sake of passing is hugely criticized in footballing community.

19. Rabona

Rabona, in football, is a way of kicking the ball in such a way that the kicking leg is wrapped around the other leg.

Many players have used this skill, from likes of Ronaldinho, Critiano Ronaldo, Maradona, Romario to Eden Hazard, Dmitri Payet and more.

Rabona is mostly performed when the opportunity to kick the ball in the net has arrived at wrong angle for a player. This way, the player crosses his legs and kicks the ball with his stronger foot.

However, it is often done as a showboating skill.

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