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World Cup style guide distributed by AP

United States' Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. The United States won the match 2-1. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Ghana US
United States’ Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. The United States won the match 2-1. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

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Does this sentence mean anything to you?

Using its famed “tiki-taka” approach, Spain is deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation with a false nine to try to break down Italy’s trademark “catenaccio” defense.

If it seems obscure, don’t worry. The Associated Press compiled a summary of these and other soccer idioms likely to be heard during the ongoing World Cup in Brazil.

Some are from the AP Stylebook: Others were contributed by AP soccer experts Steve Douglas and Trevor Huggins.

Let’s start with some typical, everyday terms:

“What is offside?” is often the test question to identify true soccer fans. Offside occurs when a player is nearer to his opponent’s goal line than the second-to-last opponent when a ball is passed to him by a teammate. It does not apply if the player is in his half of the field. A free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the place where the offside happened.

free kick
A kick awarded to a team if its player is fouled by an opponent anywhere on the field except for the two penalty areas near the goals. The kick can either be direct (able to shoot straight into the net) or indirect (cannot shoot into the net).

A refereeing decision awarded if a player from the defensive team fouls a player from the attacking team inside the penalty area. The attacking team chooses a player to have a free shot at goal from the penalty spot, 12 yards from the goal line.

When a player restarts play by throwing the ball back onto the pitch from its perimeter. The player must keep both feet on the ground and have both hands behind his head as he throws the ball.

A kick taken from the corner of the field by an attacking player. Awarded when the ball has passed over the goal line after last touching a defensive player. The shot is taken from the corner nearest to where the ball went out.

red card
Issued to a player who commits a serious foul or who has been issued with two yellow cards in the same game. The player must leave the field and cannot be replaced.


hand ball
A foul awarded when a player deliberately touches the ball with his hand or any part of his arm.

A formal term for when a player dives to the ground or attempts to deceive the referee into awarding a penalty. This offense can result in a yellow card.


A pass that a player makes back toward his own goal, to the goalkeeper on his team. The goalkeeper is unable to pick up the ball if the pass comes from the player’s foot.

When a player passes the ball to a teammate, who then returns it to the same player with his first touch. A move usually done on the run, making it hard to defend against.

A line of defensive players that protects the team’s goalkeeper at a free kick.


Ready to impress your pals? Here are some terms used by real soccer aficionados:

A system of intricate, one-touch and rapid passing artistry developed by Spanish club Barcelona and eventually adopted by Spain’s national team.

false nine
A forward player who appears to be playing as a team’s main attacker but who drops back, closer to the midfield. It leaves the defense of the opposing team with no one to mark. If any team is going to use a false nine in the World Cup, it’s likely to be Spain. The term is soccer’s most recent buzzword.

A highly defensive style of play, widely seen as originating in the 1960s and ‘70s and often associated with Italian teams. The system literally translates as “door-bolt” or “lock.”

total football
The label given to a tactical theory, pioneered in international soccer by the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup, in which any outfield player can take over the role of any of his teammates. Defenders can pop up in attack and a player on the right wing can end up on the left side of defense.

4-2-3-1 formation
The typical line-up of a modern-day soccer team, with four defenders, two deep midfielders, three attacking midfielders and a lone forward. The idea is to flood the midfield zone to enable a team to keep possession of the ball better. The long-adopted 4-4-2 system is seen as antiquated and rarely used anymore.

zonal marking
A system of defending at corners where players from the defensive team mark areas rather than opposition players. An alternative to man-to-man marking.

A nonchalant type of penalty kick that sees an attacker deftly chip the ball toward the middle of the goal, fooling a goalkeeper who has dived to one side or the other. Named after Antonin Panenka, a player from the former country of Czechoslovakia who produced that kick during a penalty shootout against Germany in the final of the European Championships in 1976. Require nerves of steel.

the quarterback role
The name given to the player who plays as a deep-lying midfielder and starts attacks by spraying passes, short and long, to teammates. Italy maestro Andrea Pirlo and Spain star Xabi Alonso are players who have perfected the role that used to be the domain of tough-tackling players.

hospital pass
A pass to a player who will be heavily tackled by an opponent upon receiving it.

parking the bus
A phrase used increasingly by coaches in the English Premier League, and some elsewhere, to describe how a team packs its defense to protect a lead of a draw. Can often involve using all 10 outfield players as defenders.


And finally, here are the stadium names and AP datelines for World Cup matches:

Mineirao in BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil

National Stadium in BRASILIA, Brazil

Arena Pantanal in CUIABA, Brazil

Arena da Baixada in CURITIBA, Brazil

Arena Castelao in FORTALEZA, Brazil

Arena da Amazonia in MANAUS, Brazil

Arena das Dunas in NATAL, Brazil

Estadio Beira-Rio in PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil

Arena Pernambuco in RECIFE, Brazil

Arena Fonte Nova in SALVADOR, Brazil

Maracana in RIO DE JANEIRO

Arena de Sao Paulo in SAO PAULO


Paul Colford
Director of Media Relations
The Associated Press

Erin Madigan White
Sr. Media Relations Manager
The Associated Press

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