Over the course of the next four weeks, 63 matches will be played during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and there’s a specific nomenclature that each fan, no matter how mainstream or die-hard, must know in order to fully appreciate the experience.

No one wants to be the guy, or gal, who screams against a blatant offside call or gets overly excited after a goal in extra time. It can also be a rather embarrassing experience to make a comment in a crowded room that reveals how new you are to the sport.

Below are some basic terms that should equip even the most novice fan with some knowledge.

Bicycle Kick

When a player kicks the ball over their own head while is horizontal to the ground. Famed Brazilian legend Pelé helped make this move famous.

Direct Free Kick

If a foul is committed anywhere on the field outside of the penalty area, the offended team gets an unopposed kick. The kick can be taken by any player on the team. Let's say England’s Wayne Rooney is fouled by Italy’s Andrea Pirlo. Any player on the field for England can take the kick. Opponents must be at least 10 yards away from the ball when the kick is taken.

Full Back

Full backs are defenders who play along the baselines, and typically remain there to prevent an opposing squad from completing a fast break. However, in the modern game full backs often move up with the attack and participate.  

Goal Kick

It's the kick from the defending goal area after the ball had previously been touched past the goal line by the opposing team. Let's say Croatia misses a shot wide of Brazil’s net and out of bounds. Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar would likely then kick the ball all the way to the opposite end of the field, or to an open teammate near his own net.


The English word for "zero." Matches sometimes end 0-0, but don’t say the numbers. Say "nil-nil."


A fancy dribbling term for when an attacker splits the ball between a defender’s legs.


Offside is called when an attacking player, receives a pass while standing or running behind the opposing team’s last defender. Timing is very important on this play. As long as the attacking player is behind the last defender when the pass is made, he is free to accept the ball and keep going towards the goal.

Overtime Rules

After 90 minutes and the match is still tied, teams move into overtime or “extra” time. In this instance, two 15-minute periods are played with a break in between. However there is no “sudden death.” For instance, if Cameroon scores a goal in the first 5 minutes of extra time against Italy, they will still play the remaining 25 minutes.

If the score is still tied after the extra time, then the match will be decided by a penalty shootout. Five players from each side get a shot, and whichever team converts the most penalty kicks wins. Should both sides have, say, three goals after five shots, then each side will continue to alternate kicks until one scores and another misses.

In order to be eligible for the shootout, a player must have been on the field during extra time. If they were substituted in the second half or in the extra time, they cannot participate. A player can take a second penalty kick only after every other player on his team has made an attempt. Goalkeepers can take penalties as well (also during regular play.)

Red Card

Red cards mean immediate expulsion from the field, without the possibility of being substituted, leaving one's team down one person. They are most often given out when a player commits an especially rough or violent foul, or even shows unsportsmanlike conduct toward another player or the referees. Those are often called "a straight red." A straight red card is also often handed out when a player purposely fouls an attacker who has a clear-cut scoring opportunity, e.g. pulling a player’s jersey back to slow his progress with the ball in front of the net. 

Stoppage Time

Also referred to as "added time" or "injury time," it’s the extra minutes tacked on to the end of each period. It’s the accumulated time measured by the time it took for players to recover or be treated for injuries, or delays like when the ball is sent out of bounds. Stoppage time is often announced at about the 44th or 89th minute, one minute from the end of regular time in the first and second periods. The official timekeeper is the referee. A minimum of 30 seconds is often tacked on after a goal or substitution.


Sometimes called a forward, a striker is usually the player most responsible for scoring. Examples include the Netherlands' Robin van Persie, Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain, and Jozy Altidore of the United States.


Each team is allowed a maximum of three players to sub into a game. Once a player is subbed out, he cannot return to the match.


Defending players stack shoulder to shoulder to prevent the opposing team from getting a clear shot on the goal off a direct free kick.

Yellow Card

It’s usually a warning, or caution, after a player commits a very rough foul. One is bad enough and players often hold back after it is issued so as to avoid a second. If a player is shown two yellow cards, it becomes a red card and they are thrown out of the match and their team must play with one fewer player for the duration of the match.

50/50 Ball

A 50/50 ball is when both teams have the chance to chase down or gain possession of a loose ball. For example, if the ball is lobbed in the air and Germany’s Mario Gotze and the U.S.’s Clint Dempsey jump for a header, they each have a 50 percent chance of gaining possession.