Languagecaster Main Report: The Language of Goals

On this week’s main report, look at some of last weekend’s articles from the respected Guardian newspaper in the UK to show the ways journalists and fans describe how goals are scored.

Language of Goals

The aim of football is to score more goals than your opponent. To score goals you need to shoot or head the ball into the net – simple. But the language of scoring goals is full of nuances and descriptive verbs. On this week’s main report, we look at some of last weekend’s articles from the respected Guardian newspaper in the UK to show the ways journalists and fans describe how goals are scored. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report.

The language of goals

First up we have two hatricks – one by Luis Suarez of Liverpool and the other by Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United.

Suarez’s first and second goals were described using the verb ‘to find’ –  Here are the descriptions: Liverpool’s leading striker waited for Habsi to commit himself, then found the near corner; Suárez,  fouled by Caldwell, picked himself up to find the bottom corner of Habsi’s goal. To ‘find’ the corner shows that the shot was guided, controlled, and deliberately placed. Suarez’s third goal involved the use of the verb ‘to nutmeg‘ – Suárez held his aim and nutmegged Habsi for his second hat-trick of the season. Usually ‘nutmeg‘ is used as a noun and means to kick the ball through an opponent’s legs, but as here it can also be used as a verb – ‘to nutmeg’. Again, the use of this expression implies skill and also is embarrassing for the opponent – no-one likes to be nutmegged.

What about Kagawa’s hat-trick, which drew a lot of praise from pundits? The first was described like this – The Japanese stroked home his opener in added time. ‘To stroke’ means to gently place the ball with control. It is an artistic way to score, a goal by a skillful player. His second ‘gave the goalkeeper no chance‘ after Kagawa ‘wrong footed‘ the keeper. To wrong foot an opponent is to trick them into moving the wrong way so that they cannot recover in time. The Japanese player’s third was ‘finished coolly’. To finish is a very common verb used instead of ‘to score’.

Another big game in the Premier League was the North London derby, which we featured in last week’s podcast. The first goal was scored by Gareth Bale, it ‘was put past Szczesny with the outside of the boot‘. ‘To put past’ is the verb – meaning to shoot to one side of – but the interesting phrase is ‘with the outside of the foot’: to shoot or pass with the outside of the foot is a difficult skill – it is much more natural to use the inside of the foot or the top of the foot to kick the ball – so this phrase gives us an image of confidence, strength and skill.

This can be contrasted with Demba Ba’s goal for Chelsea against West Bromwich Albion, which appeared in the report described like this: ‘Demba Ba side-footed into the unguarded net to register a first goal since mid-January‘. To ‘side foot’ is to use the inside of your foot, to open your body and place the ball accurately. The sentence also uses the verb ‘to register’ a goal – used when we want to focus on a player’s statistics. In this case, the journalist mentions that Ba hasn’t scored for a long time.

As we can see by these examples, the language of scoring is a rich one. In next week’s main report we will focus on the language of creating goals.

Vocabulary support

(a) hat-trick: scoring three goals in one match (originally from the sport of Cricket)

to commit: to decide to do something; to make a move

(a) pundit: an expert; a commentator; a journalist

unguarded: empty; with no defender or goalkeeper present

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

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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