An A-Z of Key Football Terms

If you haven't quite got your head around all the Football lingo, take a look at this glossary of all the key terms in the game of Association Football.


  • Advantage- A call that a referee makes during a match, where a player is fouled but the play continues because the team that suffered the foul is in a better position than they would if the game was stopped.
  • AFC- Asian Football Confederation.
  • Against the run of play- When a team scores a goal while the opposing side has been playing better and was more likely to score.
  • Aggregate or aggregate score- The total number of points accumulated by a team over a series of matches.
  • Assist- A pass that results in a goal being scored.
  • Attacker- A player close to the opposing team’s goal line, usually a striker.
  • Away goals rule- Tie breaker used in competitions with two-legged matches. In the situation that the aggregate scores are tied, the team that scored the most goals away from home is deemed the winner.


  • Back heel- type of pass or shot where the player uses the back of their heel to kick the ball backwards.
  • Back pass rule- A rule that specifies a goalkeeper is not allowed to pick up the ball if it is intentionally passed back to them by a teammate.
  • Behind closed doors- When a match is played with no spectators.
  • Bench- Area on the edge of the pitch where coaches and substitutes sit, also known as a dugout
  • Bending the ball- When players apply spin to their kick resulting in the ball curving or ‘bending’ in mid-air.
  • Bicycle kick- an acrobatic kick where a player kicks an airborne ball backwards, overhead.
  • Byline- the parts of the goal line that are on either side of the goal.


  • Corner Kick- A means of restarting the game after the ball has left the field of play, it is rewarded when the ball crosses the goal line but a goal is not scored.
  • Cross- A medium or long-range pass that is kicked from a wide area of the field towards the centre near the opponent's goal.
  • Chesting the ball- A way to control the ball using one’s chest.


  • Defender- An outfield player whose role is to prevent the opposing team from scoring a goal.
  • Direct Free Kick- A type of free kick where the kick is allowed to be taken as a direct shot.
  • Dribble- When a player maneuvers the ball between their feet allowing them to travel with the ball.
  • Dummy run aka. Decoy run- A run where a player sets themselves up as though they are going to kick the ball but instead let it pass through their legs to another player. Intended to distract the defenders.


  • Early doors- A term often used by commentators to describe the early stages of a match.
  • Equaliser- a goal that evens the score of the game.
  • Extra time- Additional time, usually 30 mins, allowed at the end of a game when the score is tied and a winner needs to be determined.


  • Far post- The post furthest away from where a cross is made.
  • FIFA- International Federation of Association Football
  • Foul- An act made by a player that the referee deems unfair and interferes with active play of the game. Fouls are punished by the allowance of a free kick to the opposing.
  • Free kick- A free kick is a method of restarting the game after a foul is made by the opposing team.
  • Field of play- The part of the field that is officially marked as the area where the action of the game takes place.
  • Fixture- The schedule of games to be played in a competition.
  • Formation- Describes the way in which the players position themselves on the field.
  • Forward- A player who plays nearest to the opposing team’s goal and is responsible for scoring goals.
  • Fullback- a defender playing in a wide position.


  • Game of two halves- A close match where both teams have dominated one half each.
  • Give and go- A maneuver where a player passes the ball to a teammate in order to reposition themselves or move away from a defender and receive a return pass.
  • Goal average- The number of goals scored is divided by the number of goals conceded.
  • Goal Kick- A game restarting method where the defending side take a free kick after attackers send the ball over the byline.
  • Goal line- The lines at either end of the soccer pitch on which the goals are situated.
  • Goal mouth- The area of the soccer field directly in front of the goal.
  • Goalkeeper- The player whose specific role is to stop the ball from entering the goal. The goalkeeper is the only player who can handle the ball during game play.
  • Goal side- When a player is positioned closer to the goal than their opponent.


  • Half time- The break between the game’s two halves, usually lasts 15 minutes.
  • Hat trick- When a player scores three goals in one game.
  • Header- When a player uses their head to pass or control the ball.
  • Handball- A foul where a player’s hand or arm touches the ball resulting in a free kick or penalty being awarded to the opposing team.
  • Hold up the ball- When a player receives a long ball from a teammate and controls the ball, shielding it from the opposition in order to slow down the play and give teammates time to make their way up the pitch


  • Indirect free kick- A free kick where the kick cannot be a direct goal, it must be passed to another player before it can be taken as a shot.
  • In swinger- A free kick or corner kick taken from a wide position that bends in towards the goal.
  • Intercept- to stop a pass from reaching its intended recipient.


  • Journeyman- A term used to describe a player who has played for many different teams throughout their career.


  • Keep ups- The skill of juggling the soccer ball using feet, legs, knees, chest and head without allowing the ball to hit the ground.
  • Kickoff- A means of starting the match or restarting after a goal is scored. The ball is kicked from the center line of the pitch with the opposing team positioned at least 10 yards away from the ball.
  • Knock- A small injury.


  • Last man- A situation where an attacking player has possession of the ball and there is only one opposing player between them and the goal.
  • Laws of the game- Codified rules of the game of association football.
  • Long ball- When the ball is kicked a long distance down the pitch, usually bypassing the midfield.


  • Man of the match- Award given to the best player in the game.
  • Man on - A call made by players to warn a teammate with the ball that an opposing player is behind them.
  • Marking- Defensive strategy that aims to prevent an opposing team member from receiving the ball.
  • Midfield- The middle area of the field.
  • Midfielder- A player who is usually positioned in the middle of the field.


  • Near post- The goal post that is closest to the ball.
  • Neutral ground- When a game is played at a venue that does not belong to either team.
  • Normal time- The first 90 minutes of a match


  • Offside- A rule of the game where a player is deemed to be in an area they shouldn’t be. Usually, a player is deemed to be offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.
  • Offside trap- A defensive tactic where all the defensive backs move up field together just before the opposing attacker is about to pass the ball in attempt to have them judged as offside.
  • One-touch pass- When a player passes or shoots the ball with one touch without trapping or dribbling the ball first.
  • Out swinger- Opposite of In swinger- a free kick or corner kick that bends away from the goal.
  • Open goal- When no player is defending the goal.
  • Own goal- When a player accidentally scores a goal for the opponent.


  • Penalty Area- Also known as the 18-yard box, it is the large rectangular area that surrounds the goal.
  • Penalty kick- A free kick taken at the goal which is awarded to the attacking team after the a foul made by an opponent within the penalty area.
  • Penalty Shoot Out- A means of determining a winner of a game in the case of a draw after playing time and extra time has expired. Each team is provided five penalty kicks that must be taken by different players- the team that scores the most is deemed the winner.
  • Pitch- The playing surface of the game, also known as the field.


  • Red card- A red card is used by a referee to address a serious foul or other misconduct. The player who received the red card is sent off the field for the rest of the game and cannot be replaced by another team member.
  • Referee- The official who runs the match.
  • Rounding the keeper- Attacking maneuver, where a player attempts to move around the goalkeeper in the hopes of creating an open goal.


  • Save- When the goalkeeper stops the ball from entering the goal.
  • Shot- To hit the ball in attempt to score a goal, usually done using the feet or head.
  • Sliding tackle- A tackle where a defender slides along the ground in attempt to push the ball away from the opposing player.
  • Stoppage time- An additional amount of time, determined by match officials, added to the end of each half to make up for lost game time. Also known informally as injury time or added time.
  • Striker- A position in football. Strikers are positioned closest to the opponent’s goal, their main role is to score goals.
  • Sweeper- A defender whose role is to defend the area between the goalkeeper and the rest of the defense.


  • Tackle- A maneuver where a defender legally uses their foot to take the ball away from the player with possession of the ball.
  • Through pass- A pass that is sent through two defenders to a teammate on the other side of the defense.
  • Throw-In- A method of restarting the game, where the ball is thrown back onto the pitch after it has exited the field of play over the touch line.
  • Toe poke- To kick the ball with the tip of the foot.
  • Touch line- Line marking on each side of the pitch indicating the area of play.
  • Trapping the ball- When a player uses their foot, chest, or thigh to stop and gain control of an airborne ball.


  • Utility player- A player who has the skills to be used in various positions on the field.


  • Volley- When an airborne ball is struck before it hits the ground


  • Wall- Row of defensive players lined up 10 yards away from an opponent taking a free kick making it difficult for them to score a goal.
  • Wing- The area of the pitch on the far right and far left of the pitch, parallel to the sidelines.
  • Wingers- Players, usually midfielders or forwards who are positioned in the left or right wing of the pitch.
  • World Cup- Referring to the big world soccer tournaments: FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup.


  • Yellow Card- used by the referee as a caution for a player who commits an offence in the game. If a player receives two yellow cards in a match, they are given a red card and sent off the field.


Zone defense- A type of defense where players are tasked with defending a certain area of the pitch rather than a certain opponent.