World Cup 2022: football vocabulary you need to know


World Cup Ball

Every four years, football teams from around the world come together and play against each other in an international competition – the World Cup. This year, the World Cup 2022 is in Qatar.  The World Cup is an exciting time for all countries involved. People in schools, in bars, in cafes and at home watch, celebrate and enjoy the buzz of the tournament.

How you can learn new language from World Cup 2022 

The World Cup is a fantastic chance to learn about other countries and cultures, and it also provides lots of opportunities to learn new words and phrases in English. You might hear new vocabulary when you’re watching a match or talking with English-speaking friends. You may also discover new words or phrases if you read articles about it online. 

Let’s look at some common vocabulary you might hear in the World Cup 2022, and learn English with football! 

Football vocabulary 

Players play football on a pitch (n). This is an area of ground specially prepared and marked for playing football.  

There are 11 football players on a team, including one goalkeeper (n). A goalkeeper’s job is to stop the ball from going into his or her team’s goal. 

Each football game has a referee (n). This is the official who controls the game. 

When a football game or team kicks off (phrasal verb), the game starts. 

If a team scores (v), they win points or goals in a game. 

Teams may have the chance to take a penalty (n). This means they have the chance to score a goal without any defending players, except the goalkeeper trying to stop it. This chance is given because the other team has broken the rules, or during a special period to decide on a winner.

If there is a substitution (n), one player is used in the place of another player. This means one player comes off the pitch, and another goes on the pitch to play. 

When a player shoots (v), they try to kick the ball into the goal to score a point. 

A player may be sent off (phrasal verb). This means they must leave the pitch because they have broken the rules of the game. 

The game might end in a draw (n). This means no team wins as they have the same score, e.g. 0–0, 1–1 etc. 

When a team gets knocked out (phrasal verb), they are defeated by another team, so they cannot continue competing. 

When a team qualifies (v), they are of a high enough standard to defeat another team in order to continue in a competition. 


Football vocabulary practice activity 

Use the football vocabulary to complete the sentences. Use the correct form of the word or phrase. 

  1. The _____ saved two goals in the match against Japan. 
Click here to reveal the answer.
  1. The _____ said that one of the players pushed another player, so he allowed Argentina to take a _____. They scored, and won the game 1–0. This meant they _____ for the next stage of the World Cup. 
Click here to reveal the answer.
referee, penalty, qualified
  1. The player received another yellow card for his behaviour, so he was _____. 
Click here to reveal the answer.
sent off
  1. The team were losing during the second half of the match, so the manager made two _____. One of the new players _____ a goal in the first five minutes he was on the _____. 
Click here to reveal the answer.
substitutions, scored, pitch
  1. Switzerland were defending so well that the other team found it impossible to _____ and score. In the end, the game was a ____ as neither team scored a goal. 
Click here to reveal the answer.
shoot, draw
  1. Before _____, everyone expected Spain to win. In the end, however, Morocco _____ Spain from the World Cup 2022, and Morocco will continue to the next stage of games.
Click here to reveal the answer.
kick off, knocked out

Practising your football vocabulary 

Have you been watching the World Cup 2022? What happened in the last game you watched? Leave a comment using the football vocabulary from the article.

Enjoyed this post? Learn more vocabulary related to sports.

Billie Jago is an ELT writer and teacher trainer, specialising in digital & assessments. She is the founder of the professional development podcast ELTcpd and co-founder of the digital ELT content agency, otterelt.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

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