The Language of Misses
Of course a player can miss a chance because of the goalkeeper’s skill: the shot is saved by the goalkeeper. And there are many ways to describe this action, such as this example from a game between Swansea and Newcastle:
‘This time he (Shelvey) picked up the ball and raced into the area only to see his shot parried by Krul.’ (BBC December 2013)
The verb ‘to parry‘ is used to describe the way a keeper pushes the ball to the side of the post. Goalkeepers can also palm a shot wide, as in this example from a game between Liverpool and Southampton:
‘Liverpool were the first to go close, Steven Gerrard’s 25-yard free-kick being palmed wide by keeper Artur Boruc at full stretch.'(BBC December 2013)
The palm, as a noun, is the flat of the hand, but here it is used as a verb.
So, keepers can save, parry or palm wide a shot, but shots can also miss when a player is unlucky and they hit the post or crossbar – collectively called the woodwork. Here is a classic example from Manchester United vs Southampton:
‘Rooney rattled the crossbar with a thunderous shot but the visitors weathered the United storm and came again.‘
‘To rattle’ is to make something shake, and in this case also shows the shot was a powerful one. Another phrase with a similar feeling is ‘to crash off’ the woodwork. You will also commonly hear that a player is denied by the woodwork:
‘In an entertaining game, Luis Suarez was denied by the woodwork moments before Richardson put the hosts back in front from close range’ (Fulham vs Liverpool – BBC February 2014).
It is almost as if the woodwork is an opposition player, working hard to prevent their opponent scoring.
The most likely way a player fails to score is because they themselves miss the target. The language of players missing the goal could be as long as a book, so here we focus on a few of our favourites. To describe a bad miss by a player who lacks composure, you can use the verb ‘to blaze‘ with a preposition, such as ‘wide’ or ‘over’. To blaze is to hit the ball very hard but with no accuracy. Here is an example from a match between Tottenham and Man United:
‘Tottenham’s fans roared their side on in search of more goals but £26m striker Roberto Soldado blazed a good chance wide and the lively Aaron Lennon was denied by De Gea.‘ (BBC, December 2013)
Notice that it was a good chance, so to blaze wide emphasises this was a wasted chance. A striker may be unlucky, however, to miss. A great way to describe this situation is with the adverb ‘agonisingly’, as in this example:
‘Anelka sprinted past the German before curling a shot agonisingly wide.’ (West Brom v Arsenal BBC, October 2013).
A similar meaning can be understood with the adverb ‘narrowly’:
‘Early in the second half, Coutinho curled a shot narrowly wide of the past with only Begovic to beat.‘ (Liverpool vs Stoke, BBC, August 2013).
Scoring in football is difficult, and the goalkeeper, the woodwork and the players themselves can make it easy to miss the chance to score!
parry: deflect, repel, counter
palm: the inner part of the hand
thunderous: very powerful
weather the storm: survive a difficult period of time; not concede a goal after a lot of pressure
composure: calmness, being in control of your feelings
roar on: to cheer, to support loudly
sprinted: ran quickly
- See also The language of goals.