Spanish-speaking teams are making big noise at this World Cup, be it Costa Rica’s unexpected advance from Group D or Colombia’s dominance in Group C. So we’ve added the brilliantly bilingual Elliott Turner to expand our Spanish soccer vocabulary. Over to you, Elliott:
When last we attempted to improve your passable Spanish, we looked at some bread & butter soccer terms for around the 18-yard-box. Namely, we focused on forwards and defenders. However, a lot of soccer happens in the midfield. Thus, this edition will look at midfielders, often referred to as mediocampistas, volantes, and centrocampistas. Don’t let the abundance of synonyms overwhelm you-we’ll hold your hand.
Generally, midfielders come in two types: those who create goals and chances, and those who defend. There’s also major differences between Latin American Spanish and Castillian in this area. For example, in Latin America, a creative central midfielder would be a volante creativo. In Spain, that same player would probably be called a centrocampista creativo. For creative players who stick around their own half, like Andrea Pirlo, they are often called an enganche (“hook”) in Latin America and media punta in Spain.
One of the key passes and best moments in soccer is when a volante creativo slides a pass on the ground and through the defensive line. In English, we often refer to this as a slide-rule pass or a through ball. In Mexico, the most common term is balon filtrado (“filtered ball”). In Spain, you’ll likely hear pase entre lineas (pass between lines). In South America, the expression is pase al hueco. “Hueco” means a gap or space, and in this context means the area between the defenders.
Of course, sometimes creative players are pushed out to the wings. Arjen Robben is a classic example of a player who can either find his own shot or whip in a cross. The term for a winger in Latin America is carrilero, which comes from the term “carril” meaning “lane.” That’s because they often simply run up and down the field, staying close to the touchline. In Spain, they are known as extremos. They often whip in crosses, known in Spanish as centros. The appropriate verb is either cruzar (literally “to cross”) or mandar (“to send”) un centro.
If forwards get the glory and defenders get the blame, then holding midfielders usually just get ignored. Still, they play an important role in intercepting passes, breaking up plays, and shielding the defense. In Latin America, they are known as volantes de contencion. Contencion means “containment.” An example would be Javier Mascherano’s role when he plays for Argentina. In Spain, there is more of an emphasis on retaining the ball and executing simple passes in this part of the field. The common term is pivote, which means “pivot.” Sergio Busquets is a great example of a pivote — his superior positioning and technical ability often eliminate need for any serious tackling.
Of course, holding midfielders get called for their fair share of fouls. The Spanish term for “foul” is falta. For a jersey tug, the right word is agarron or jaloneo. For a handball, you simply say mano. For a raised foot or studs up (and in) tackle, you say plancha (which means “iron, like ‘to iron’” – go figure). For a penalty, you say penal. For a doubtful one, you say penal dudoso. And, of course, you say tarjeta amarilla for “yellow card” and tarjeta roja for “red card.”
With most of the field covered, you can now dive headfirst into Univision’s excellent World Cup coverage. Orale and have some fun!