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World Cup Glossary of Terms

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Federations and governing bodies | Trophies | Major tournaments


Advantage: A referee can decide not to call an infraction if allowing play to continue creates an advantage for the fouled team.

Assistant coaches: Coaches who help the head coach run the team. Sometimes have specific specialties, such as managing the goalkeepers.

Assistant referee: Formerly called linesman. Patrols the sidelines or touch line; duties include determining when balls are out of bounds, which team touched last touched it, and whether a player or team is offside.


Back pass: A ball played toward a player's own goal. Most often, a pass from a defender to his own goalkeeper. An intentional back pass made with a defender's feet cannot be handled by his own goalkeeper.

Backs: Nickname or abbreviation of the name given to the defenders who line up in the rear, in front of the goalkeeper; the name refers to the left and right fullbacks as well as the centerbacks.

Banana Kick: A kick with exceptional curve.

Bicycle Kick: A spectacular maneuver in which a player, most often with his back to goal, jumps and moves his legs in a bicycling motion, striking the ball with the instep.

Booking: A term referring to a player's name being written down by a referee for either a yellow or red card infraction.

Boots: Soccer cleats.

Box: The penalty area that runs 18 yards in front of the goal line. Also, a term used when the goalkeeper punches the ball.


Calcio: Italian term for soccer.

Cap: Represents an appearance in a national team match for a player.

Captain: The on-field player considered an extension of the coach and a team leader; he is allowed greater freedom in talking to the referee.

Caution: Another term for a yellow card, which is handed out by the referee for serious rules violations that are not severe enough to warrant a red card.

Center: When a ball is passed from the wings into the penalty area of the field; also known as a cross.

Center Forward: Striker who leads the attack.

Chip: A high, arching kick that is lofted over the heads of defenders or the goalkeeper.

Clear: A defensive kick that attempts to get the ball out of a scoring area, particularly the penalty area.

Coach: The person who runs the team on the field and, in practices, prepares the team to play upcoming opponents through tactical and personnel decisions.

Corner kick: A kick given to the offensive team when the defending side clears the ball completely over the end or goal line. The kick is taken from the left or right corner depending upon which side of the field the ball went out of bounds.

Cross: When a player on the wings drives, chips or lofts the ball to teammates in front of the goal or on the other side of the field.


Dangerous Play: An action on the field ruled by the referee that could cause an injury; will at minimum draw an indirect free kick but could also draw a yellow or red card for the offending player.

Dead ball: A ball that's not in play while on the field. For instance: free kicks, corner kicks, penalty kicks and throw-ins.

Defenders: Players positioned in front of the goalkeeper whose primary duty is to stop the opposition from getting shots and scoring. Outside fullbacks play on the wings. Central defenders often cover the opposition's center forward or leading goal scorer.

Direct kick: A free kick awarded when a player kicks, trips, charges, jumps at, strikes or holds an opponent or handles the ball with his hand. The defending team must stand at least 10 yards away from the ball before the kick. The kick is taken from the point of the infraction, and the designated player taking the kick may score directly without another player having to touch the ball.

Dissent: When a player disagrees with a referee to a degree high enough to warrant a yellow card as a result.

Dribble: The way a player controls the ball with her feet while on the move.

Drop ball: Used after an injury stops play or play has been stopped for some other reason without the ball going out of bounds. The referee drops the ball onto the ground between two opposing players where play stopped. The ball must bounce before players can kick it.


End line: Also called the goal line, which runs the width of the field on each end, with the goal placed in the middle.

Expulsion: Another term for red card or ejection, also known as being "sent off."

Extra time: Another name for overtime. Usually a "sudden-death" situation in which the first team to score wins. Not to be confused with injury or "stoppage" time.


Far post: The goal post the farthest from the ball.

Football (or Futbol): Internationally recognized term for the sport, also known as soccer in the U.S. and Australia and calcio in Italy.

Forwards: The players whose chief job is to score goals or create goal-scoring opportunities with passes to teammates. Wings play on the flanks, and center forwards play in the middle but can wander into open space. Sometimes called a striker, the center forward is often the team's leading scorer.

Foul: An infraction of the rules by a player or even a team official. A free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

Free kick: A kick taken by the attacking team after a player is fouled. Teams must allow the kicker a minimum of 10 yards before the ball is put into play.

Friendly: Essentially an exhibition match; often used to benefit up-and-coming players or sharpen top players for upcoming tournaments or qualifying.

Fullback: Another name for a defender who plays on the left or right side.

Flank: The sides of the field, also known as the wing.


Game Clock: The official game time for all games is managed on the field by the referee. If necessary, the referee may also allot "stoppage time" at the end of each half to allow for injuries, time-wasting or other disturbances.

Goal: The manner in which points are scored; to score, the ball must completely cross over the goal line and into the goal; a goal counts as one point.

Goals: Standing in the center of the goal lines; each goal consists of two posts, 24 feet apart, and a crossbar, 8 feet above the ground.

Goal area: A 60-foot wide by 18-foot deep rectangular area in front of each goal.

Goalkeeper: Defends the goal; the only player who can handle the ball within the penalty area with his hands.

Goal kick: A free kick taken either by the goalkeeper or member of the defending team when the attacking team puts the ball completely over the goal line.

Goal lines: Also known as the end line. Lines that run from sideline-to-sideline at both ends of the field, with the goal in the middle; represents the end of the playing area at the far end of each side of the field.

Goal mouth: The area directly in front of the goal.

GOLDEN GOAL: A popular term for an overtime or sudden-death goal, where a game ends with the scoring of a goal rather than by the expiration of an extra-time period; used in some international soccer tournaments, including the elimination rounds of the World Cup.


Half: One of two 45-minute periods in a 90-minute match.

Half volley: A kick or shot made on the short hop, immediately after the ball hits the ground.

Halfbacks: Another term for midfielders.

Halftime: The interval between halves, usually 15 minutes.

Handball: Infraction called when a player other than a goalkeeper intentionally plays a ball with his hand; if a player handles within his own penalty area, a penalty shot is awarded; if the goalkeeper handles the ball outside the penalty area, a direct free kick is awarded.

Hat trick: A term referring to a three-goal performance in a single match by an individual player.

Header or Head Shot: When a player uses his head to shoot, pass or control the ball.


Indirect kick: Awarded infractions to the team fouled for less serious. Two players -- the shooter and a teammate or opponent -- must touch the ball before a goal can be scored. The kick is awarded from the point of infraction.

Injury time: Time added to the end of either half by the referee to compensate for time lost due to injuries or other delays during each half; the determination of injury time is solely the responsibility of the referee. Also known as stoppage time.

Inswinger: A shot, pass or corner kick in which the ball curves toward the goal.

International player: One who is selected to play for his country's national team.

Interval: Another name for halftime.


Juggling: Keeping a ball in the air with any parts of the body beside the arms and hands. Drill used to improve coordination.


Keeper: Short for goalkeeper.

Kickoff: A free kick used to star the game, half, overtime or play after a goal. Unlike American football, the kicking team does not have to boot the ball to the opposition. Instead, the team is allowed to pass it forward to members of its own team.


Linesman: The old term for assistant referee, the two officials who are stationed outside of the touchline to indicate such things as when a ball is out of play or offside.


Man-to-man marking: When each defender is assigned to cover a specific offensive player.

Mark: To closely defend an opposing player.

Match: A term used to describe a game; matches last 90 minutes, with a rest between halves.

Midfielder: Players who line up in front of defenders and behind strikers; members of the team whose role is to link the forwards and defense. Midfielders can specialize as attackers or defenders.


Near Post: The goal post nearest to the ball.

Nutmeg: When an attacker moves forward by passing a ball through an opponent's legs.


Obstruction: Blocking an opponent with the body without maintaining possession of the ball within playing distance. It results in an indirect free kick for the attacking team.

Official FIFA Ball: A ball that meets the specifications of the international sanctioning body; between 27 and 28 inches in circumference and 14-to-16 ounces in weight.

Officials: The referees who administer the game. They include the referee, two assistant referees and a fourth official on the sidelines.

Offside: An infraction which occurs when an attacker sends a pass to a teammate in the attacking half of the field without two defenders -- which can include a goalkeeper -- between the teammate and the goal.

Offside Trap: A defensive scheme that attempts to push defensive players forward in the hopes of putting an attacking player offside.

One-time: When an attacker strikes a shot off a pass or rebound without stopping the ball to gain control.

Outswinger: A shot, pass or corner kick that curves away from the goal, as opposed to the inswinger, which is aimed for the front of the goal mouth.

Overlap: When a defender runs forward on the left or right side to become part of the attack.

Overtime: Extra time played after a match ends in a draw.

Own goal: When a player accidentally kicks, heads or knocks the ball into her own goal. The point is awarded to the offensive team.


Pass: How a player gets the ball to a teammate, either kicking it or hitting it with his head.

Penalty arc: The half moon positioned at the top of the penalty area, the top of which is 10 yards from the penalty spot. Players cannot enter the arc when a player attempts a penalty kick.

Penalty Area: A 60-foot wide by 18-foot deep rectangular area in front of each goal; the area in which the goalkeeper can use his hands.

Penalty kick: A free kick awarded for any personal fouls or for intentionally handling of the ball by a defending player within the penalty area; a penalty shot is taken from the designated spot, 12 yards from the goal line in the center of the penalty area, with only the goalkeeper defending the shot.

Penalty-kick tiebreaker: Sometimes called a shootout or a penalty-kick shootout. Five players take penalty kicks on both teams against the opposing goalkeeper. If the game is still tied after five kicks, the kicks continue with the remaining members of the teams on a sudden-death basis.

Penalty spot: The small circle 12 yards from the goal from which a player attempts a penalty shot after a defensive foul in the penalty area.

Pitch: Another term for a soccer field. The field of play is rectangular, with dimensions not more than 130 yards nor less than 100 yards in length, and not more than 100 yards and not less than 50 yards in width; for international matches, such as the World Cup, the length shall not be more than 120 yards nor less than 110 yards and the width shall not be more than 80 yards nor less than 70 yards.

Point System: Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss.

Punt: When a goalkeeper kicks the ball high down field toward the opposing goal.


Red Card: The card shown to a player being ejected from a match by the referee; players ejected cannot be substituted for, and often a red card offense carries a penalty of additional matches missed.

Referee: The only on-field official charged with enforcing the rules of the game; acts as timekeeper as well; has the authority to expel a player from a game for repeated fouling or misconduct.

Restart: A general description for a free kick, corner kick, throw-in, goal kick or kickoff.


Save: The goalkeeper stopping a scoring opportunity by either catching the ball or knocking it away from the goal.

Scissors Kick: A strike of the ball where the player's body is horizontal in mid-air.

Set piece: A deadball situation such as a free kick, corner kick, throw-in, or goal kick.

Shielding: When a player places his body between an opponent and the ball.

Shootout: A penalty-kick tiebreaker in which five players take penalty kicks on both teams against the opposing goalkeeper. If the game is still tied after five kicks, the kicks continue with the remaining members of the teams on a sudden-death basis.

Shot: An attempt to score that fails to go into the net because it was either saved, wide left or right, or over the crossbar.

Shot on goal: A shot that would have gone into the net if the goalkeeper had not saved it.

Side: Another name for a team.

Slide Tackle: sliding into the ball and knocking it away from an opponent; if the player executing a slide tackle hits the attacker's legs before striking the ball, it results in a penalty; if poorly executed, a slide tackle will result in a penalty with either a red or yellow card being issued, especially when coming from behind.

Soccer: Term for the sport U.S. and Australia, also known as football (or futbol) in many countries, and calcio in Italy.

Stoppage time: The time added by the referee at the end of the half or game because of time lost to injuries, arguments or stoppages of play. Also known as injury time.

Striker: Term used for forwards or attackers; target player to whom the rest of the team will look during its attack; chosen for their scoring abilities.

Sweeper: Defender who plays behind the back line with no marking assignments; the link who supports both defensive and attacking play; works in unison with his goalkeeper.


Tackle: When a defensive player uses his foot to take the ball away from his foe.

Throw-in: The method of restarting play when the ball has crossed the touchlines; a throw-in is awarded to the opposing side of the team which knocked the ball out of play.

Tie: Also known as a draw. When two teams end the game or overtime with the same amount of goals.

Touch line: The boundary lines running the full length of the field on each side of the playing area.

Trap: The use of any legal part of the body to gain control of an moving ball.


Unsportsmanlike behavior: Conduct such as kicking a player when she's down, arguing with a referee or spitting on a opponent, or throwing off his shirt after leaving the game.

U.S. Soccer: The commonly used name for the United States Soccer Federation, which administers soccer in the United States. It's based in Chicago, Illinois.


Volley: Kicking the ball while it's in the air.


Wall: The line of players used to prevent a direct kick from scoring; lined up 10 yards from where the direct kick is taken.

Wing (or Winger): A player on left or right side of the attack whose role is close to the touchline; supports forwards and midfielders.


Yellow card: A caution card showed to a player by the referee after a serious infraction; a second yellow card in the same match earns the offending player a red card and automatic ejection; some leagues and tournaments have rules regarding the accumulation of yellow cards in successive matches, which often results in a one-game ban.


Zone defense: Defenders cover a designated area instead of a specific player.


FIFA: World governing body of soccer; founded in 1904; acronym stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association; based in Zurich, Switzerland; president is Joseph "Sepp" Blatter of Switzerland.

CONCACAF: Also known as The Football Confederation; represents the region of North and Central America and the Carribean basin; acronym drawn from full name -- Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football; based in New York; president is Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, and general secretary is Chuck Blazer of the United States; founded in 1961; current membership stands at 30 nations; represented by three nations in 2002 World Cup.

CONMEBOL: Represents South American soccer region; acronym drawn from full name -- Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol; based in Asuncion, Paraguay; president is Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay; and general secretary is Eduardo Deluca of Argentina; founded in 1916; current membership stands at 10 nations; represented by five qualifying teams.

UEFA: Represents the European soccer region; acronym stands from full name -- Union of European Football Associations; based in Geneva, Switzerland; president is Lennart Johansson of Sweden and general secretary is Gerhard Aigner of Germany; founded in 1954; current membership stands at 49 nations; will be represented by 14 nations plus 1998 World Cup champion France.

CAF: Represents African soccer; acronym stands for Confederation Africaine de Football; based in Cairo, Egypt; president is Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and general secretary is Mustapha Fahmy of Egypt; founded in 1956; current membership stands at 51 nations; will be represented by five nations in the 2002 World Cup.

AFC: The governing body of soccer in Asia; acronym stands for Asian Football Confederation; based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; president is Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah of Malaysia and general secretary is Peter Velappan also of Malaysia; founded in 1954; current membership stands at 41 nations; represented by four nations at 2002 World Cup, including co-hosts South Korea and Japan.

OFC: Represents soccer region including Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific island nations; acronym stands for Oceania Football Conference; based in Auckland, New Zealand; president is Australian Basil Scarsella and general secretary is New Zealander Josephine King; founded in 1966; current membership stands at 10 nations; no representation at the 2002 World Cup; Australia, as the top qualifier was eliminated by Uruguay.


Jules Rimet Trophy: Original World Cup trophy. Retired by Brazil in 1970 after becoming the first nation to win the World Cup three times. Named after Jules Rimet, FIFA's first president.

FIFA World Cup Trophy: Established in 1974. Current trophy in use. West Germany became the first winners of the FIFA World Cup Trophy in 1974.

Major tournaments -- club and national team

Champions League: The top-tier European club competition, which matches clubs that finished near the top of their national leagues in a season-long tournament; the league is an elimination tournament and is played in addition to the regular league schedule; formerly known as the European Cup and Champions Cup.

Copa America: The top South American national-team competition; one of the oldest international soccer events, the Copa America pits the national soccer teams of CONMEBOL; recently a small number of team from other regions have competed as invited members; the tournament began in 1917 and has been played at least every four years but often special editions are scheduled in off years; the tournament takes place in a host country; Argentina has dominated this tournament.

Copa Libertadores: The top South American club competition; the tournament began in 1960 but has undergone several format changes; Argentine clubs have had more success than any other two South American national leagues combined.

European Championship: Top European national-team competition; UEFA-sanctioned tournament that occurs every four years between World Cup finals; field includes national teams from throughout Europe; tournament started in 1960; the most recent tournament was shared by Holland and Belgium in 2000; the next will be hosted by Portugal in 2004.

Intercontinental Cup: Also known as the Toyota Cup; club competition consisting of a single match between the winner of the European Champions League and the Copa Libertadores of South America; played in Tokyo since the mid-1980s; tournament started in mid-1960s.

UEFA CUP: Second-tier European club; a field of a selected number of teams is drawn from UEFA member leagues throughout Europe; qualified teams include the top positioned teams in most leagues that don't make the Champions League; in select leagues teams up to fifth place in the standings are invited to compete; the tournament is run in addition to the regular season with mid-week matches generally the rule.

Women's World Cup: The world championship for women, started in 1991 and played every four years. The U.S. won the 1991 and 1999 titles, and Norway captured the 1995 crown. China will host in 2003.

World Cup: The mother of all international soccer competitions; held every four years in a host country with national teams representing 32 countries (increased from 24 following the 1994 World Cup); 29 teams qualified in competition with automatic bids going to the past champion and co-host nations; the tournament has been played every four years since 1930, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to World War II; only seven countries have won the World Cup: Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994); Germany (1954, 1974, 1990); Italy (1934, 1938, 1982); Uruguay (1930, 1950); Argentina (1978, 1986); England (1966); and France (1998), with the 2002 edition to be the first co-host tournament in Japan and South Korea.

Sportsticker contributed to this report.