Football Language: (a) High Line

What does the phrase ‘a high line’ mean? This posts explains this footballing term. Find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below. You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here.

High Line

This phrase refers to a style of play which pushes the defenders high up the pitch, near the halfway line. It is usually used to press the opposition, to put pressure on their players when they have the ball. This is particularly effective against teams that like to keep possession and pass the ball a lot. The negative side of playing a high line is that there is a lot of space behind the defenders, meaning the team is vulnerable to the counter attack.

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Example: Villas-Boas enjoyed great success with a high line at Porto – although even there, the high defensive line seemed very risky at times.” (

Example: If Tim Sherwood plays the same suicidally high line as at St Mary’s on Saturday against Arsenal at Wembley they will surely be marmalised (thrashed) again. (Mirror Online)

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

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  • The original meaning is linked to when people would throw a rope (or line) to others who needed help – maybe they had fallen down somewhere or were in the sea – the lifeline would help to save these people. In football, a lifeline refers to a chance or a possibility to get back into a game when all had appeared lost. So, in the second example Middlesbrough (Boro) were losing 0-2 with only 15 minutes to play but a goal from their striket Gestede gave them a chance – a lifeline. He gave the hosts (the home team Boro) a chance of coming back into the game.

  • I have a question. What does “lifeline” mean in the following sentence?

    GOAL! A lifeline for Germany,
    as substitute Warschewski
    pulls one back from close
    range with 15 minutes left.

    GOAL Boro 1-2 Man Utd (77
    mins). Rudy Gestede gives
    the hosts a lifeline with a
    close-range finish after a
    spell of pressure.


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Football GlossaryEpisode 731