Enjoying the World Cup En Español, Part I

Soccer Features World Cup

Brazil 2014 has cometh. There’s just one problem: to truly enjoy a World Cup, you need to be 10 percent more worldly. Rather than sitting back and enjoying the analysis of Alexi Lalas on ESPN, perhaps you’d care to check out a Spanish language broadcast? After all, even Landon Donovan, ESPN’s surprising guest commentator, has learned the language. Luckily, as a Mexican-American, I’m here to help; these are some key soccer terms for you to know:

Those Mercurial Forwards

With Luis Suarez, Kun Aguero, Leo Messi, and Diego Costa lacing up for this World Cup, the Spanish-speaking teams have an array of mouthwatering talent. The Spanish word for “forwards” is adelante, and the soccer term for a “forward” is a delantero. The term for a “goal” is, not surprisingly, gol, and you already know what a golazo is. Just please try not to say it too much. Other essential terms are cabezazo [header] and disparo [shot].

Forwards obviously come in all shapes and sizes, and have different playing styles. For forwards like Luis Suarez and Diego Costa, you really need to know the word simular. It sounds similar to “simulate”, and means “to dive.” Another key term for smart players like Suarez and Messi is rebote, which means “rebound.’ Both players are often in the right place at the right time to score off rebounds.

Then, of course, there are lazy forwards who just kinda loiter off-sides all game. In South America these guys are often called pescadores, which translates to “poacher.” Sorry, cherry-picker is not a direct translation. Pisca-cereza will always be the special term only you and I use. Another term, more common in Central America, is repollero. This term refers to the guy who shreds cabbage into little bits, a staple sold in small plastic bags at street corners all over. Presumably, it’s in allusion to the fact these forwards feast on scraps.

There are two key words you must know to either applaud or criticize a forward. The act of finishing is definir. However, when a forward misses a shot, the key verb is fallar (sounds like “fail” and easy to remember).

The Defensive, err, Defense

At the back, there’s a pretty big difference between Latin American Spanish and Spanish from Spain. In Spain, the word for defense is easy to recall because it’s defensa. In Latin America, the must more common (and cooler sounding) term is zaga. When you refer to an individual defender, the terms are defensor and zaguero. A central defender like Martin Demichelis of Argentina would be a zaguero central, while Gerard Pique of Spain would be called by his fellow Spaniards a defensor central. Right backs and left backs can be called either zagueros laterales or defensores laterales.

The word for a “tackle” is entrada. Also, defenders often try to play an opposing forwards offside. The two terms for “offside” are fuera de lugar (literally “out of place”) and posicion adelantada (literally “advanced position”). If an outside back surges forward and overlaps, the right word is doblar (literally “to double”). If a defender clears the ball, the verb is reventar (“explode”) and the noun for a clearance is pelotazo.

Now that you’ve gotten an intro to forwards and defenders, you can give Univision a whirl. And once we’ve finished, you may even be able to stumble through ESPN Deportes game recaps!

Elliott writes about soccer at Futfanatico.com. He is the author of An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish, available on Amazon and at iTunes.

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