In this football language post for learners of English, we look at the phrase ‘to go down to the wire‘. You can read a transcript below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

To go down to the wire

down to the wireWhen a game, or more usually a league, has an exciting or tight finish. The result is not known until the very end. Today’s English for football phrase is go down to the wire. Most European leagues are coming to the end of their season. In the English league, Manchester United only lead Chelsea by three points. In the Dutch league, there are three teams on equal points at the top: AZ Alkmaar, Ajax and PSV. It is going to be an exciting finish in both these leagues and other leagues too. When we have this situation, we say ‘the season’s going to go down to the wire‘. We mean that we don’t know who will win, and we will not know until maybe the last game. Originally, this phrase was used in horse racing, when two horses were racing to the line ‘neck and neck’ – close together. The line was a thin tape, or wire. Who is going to win in the Dutch league? It’s too difficult to say. It’s going to go down to the wire.

  • Example: The 2011-12 season in England went down to the wire as Manchester City won in the final minute of the last game of the season.
  • Example: It looks like the relegation spots will not be decided until the final game of the season – it will go down to the wire.

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions, contact us at


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    C-DEpisode 97