Follow me:

Learn English Through Football Podcast: Giant killing – AFCON 2023 Group Stage Review

This week’s football language podcast looks back at the group stages of the 2023 African Nations Cup tournament that is taking place in Ivory Coast in January and February and we’ll be looking at some of good and the bad and talking about ‘giantkilling‘. And don’t forget that 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

Contact Us  Forum Glossary

Learn English Through Football Podcast: Giant killing – AFCON 2023 Group Stage Review

Embed from Getty Images

Japan Times Asian Cup 23DF: Hello again everyone and welcome to – the football-language podcast for learners and teachers of English. My name is Damian and I am in a very cold London and of course the other member of the Languagecaster team is Damon who is based in Tokyo in Japan. I wonder if Damon has been watching the Asian Cup? I saw that Japan, who are one of the favourites for the title, lost to Iraq in their second match of the tournament. The Japan Times newspaper called it a ‘shock defeat‘ which means that not many people thought it would happen. The newspaper also mentioned that Iraq ‘exposed Japan’s frailties‘ which means that the Iraqi side were able to find and attack the weaknesses of the Japanese team. The Samurai Blue (the Japanese team’s nickname) bounced back against Indonesia to progress to the last 16 and will certainly still be one of the teams to beat.

Now, as well as the Asian Cup, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is taking place and I have been watching a lot of the group games on TV here in London and it’s this competition that I will be looking at on today’s show and in particular, at the group stage which finished earlier this week.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Bemba)

Yes, that message was in Bemba from a Zambian fan and all of our stingers on this week’s show will be languages from Africa. Right, on today’s show I will be looking at some of the language that has emerged from the group stages of the tournament but before we listen to some of the good and the bad from the competition, let’s see how much you know about AFCON 23.

Stinger: You are listening to (Al-Hilal SC (Sudan) fan)

2023 AFCON: Questions

  1. How many teams are taking part in this year’s competition?
  2. Which team won the tournament two years ago (in 2021)?
  3. Where is this year’s competition taking place?

And here are some of the words and phrases that you are going to hear in the report.

  • Pull off a shock: To win a game that a team is not expected to win
  • Minnows: The smallest and usually weakest teams in a competition
  • Top the group: To finish first in the qualifying group
  • Giant killing: When a smaller team defeats a bigger or more powerful team
  • To record a victory: To win a game
  • Underdog: The team that is not expected to win

Now, listen to this short report to check your answers and listen out for the words and phrases we’ve just mentioned and we’ll check them all again at the end of the show.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Swahili)


Yes, that message was in Swahili – drop us a line if you want to add a stinger in any language that says ‘you are listening to Languagecaster’ at

The Good: Giant killing

Embed from Getty Images

It has been a fantastic tournament so far with huge shocks, late winners and lots of goals. In fact, according to Opta Stats, it’s the most number of goals scored in a group stage since 2008. This tournament has also seen the most ever goals scored after the 90th minute – an incredible 13 goals – and the first goalless draw only appeared in the final set of matches. But perhaps the best part of the competition so far is the performances of the so-called minnows or weaker sides as they pulled off shock after shock. Who would have thought that Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and Angola would top their groups? This giant killing began when Namibia, ranked 114th in the world before the tournament, defeated Tunisia to record their first ever AFCON victory, while Mozambique, ranked 111th in the world, almost beat African powerhouse Egypt who only equalised with a last-minute penalty. The shocks continued to come with Equatorial Guinea thrashing the hosts Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) 4-0 in their second match, while Algeria were beaten 1-0 by Mauritania which was their first ever win at AFCON as well.

The Bad

Embed from Getty Images

Well, few would have thought that past winners Tunisia, Ghana and Algeria would all go home after the group stages! What’s more amazing is that none of the three teams registered a win in the tournament! And all three of the teams parted ways with their managers, while Côte d’Ivoire sacked their manager despite still having a chance of progressing!

Stinger: You are listening to (in Twi from Ghana)


So, who is going to win the 2023 AFCON title? Will the underdogs continue with their giant killing or will the powerhouses such as Egypt and Nigeria make a run to the final? How about the hosts Côte d’Ivoire, will they bounce back and find their form after they nearly were eliminated from their own tournament? Can the holders Senegal retain the title they won on penalties two years ago?

Embed from Getty Images
And what about the Asian Cup in Qatar? Two of the favourites going in to this tournament were South Korea and Japan but neither of them have played well with the Koreans drawing 3-3 with Malaysia in their last match to add more pressure on their manager Jurgen Klinsmann. They will play another one of the favourites Saudi Arabia in the last 16, while Japan face Bahrain. The hosts Qatar will play Palestine in the last 16, while another one of the favourites Australia will play against Indonesia who, along with Tajikistan, are playing for the first time in the knock-out stages. And how about Iran or Iraq – both of them won all their group matches?

So, the Languagecaster team is organising a Predictions Competition starting from the last 16 of both the AFCON and the Asian Cup tournaments. You can also play against myself and  Damon, Damian and lots of other football-language fans from around the world by simply registering and then adding your scores.

Now, both of us thought Angola would defeat Namibia so that was one point each because of course Angola won 3-0. But I thought Nigeria would beat Cameroon which they did (2-0) but Damon thought it would end in a draw. So, currently I am 2-1 ahead going into day two of the predictions battle. In today’s games both Damon and I have gone for a comfortable Australian win over Indonesia. Damon thinks Egypt will beat DR Congo but I think this one will go to extra time and maybe even penalties. Both of us think Equatorial Guinea will beat Guinea (Damon thinks it will be 2-0 but I think it will only be 1-0), while I think the UAE will beat Tajikistan and Damon thinks it will end in a scoreless draw.

Well, what do you think? Come along to our site and let us know and add your predictions.


You have to be a registered user and logged in to play in this pool.
1. Fugesi 52
2. Learn English through Football 48
3. fitzpab 42
4. HP Sauce 36
5. grell 35



Stinger: You are listening to (in Ngoni (from Tanzania))


Now, if you have any questions or comments then drop us an email at and you can also look out for us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also have a football-language forum where you can ask and answer any questions you have on the language of football. And don’t forget to subscribe to our football-language podcast by coming along to

Stinger: You are listening to (in Chichewa from Malawi)).


DF: Yes, you are listening to Languagecaster and that message was from a Chichewa(-speaking) fan from Malawi. Don’t forget there’s a transcript for this short podcast and there’s lots of vocabulary support too – we explain lots of the meanings of these words in the transcript, which you can access by coming along to our site.

OK, thanks to everyone for listening to this short round up on the AFCON group stage where we discussed lots of language around giant killing including, ‘minnows‘, ‘pull off a shock’ and ‘underdogs‘. We also looked ahead to some of the big games in the last 16 of both the AFCON and the Asian Cup in our predictions battle.

Let us know if you hear any of the words from today’s show in any language while watching football over the next week or two. And of course drop us a line if you come across any interesting football language or if you have any football language questions. And we’ll see you all again soon. Bye bye!

Related Links

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Welcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Soccer fans can enhance these skills with lots of free language resources: a weekly podcast, football phrases, explanations of football vocabulary, football cliches, worksheets, quizzes and much more at

Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Football Language Podcast

Football Language Podcast: Heavy

The Learn English Through Football podcast explains the language of football: This week, we look at the word 'heavy' and its use in...