The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup)

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by Kate Woodford

With the FIFA World Cup just one day away, we thought you might like to brush up on (=improve what you know about) your tournament vocabulary.

Let’s start by getting up to date. The qualification phase ended in November 2017. In this period, the various countries’ national teams played against each other in order to qualify for (= succeed in getting into) the tournament. From a field of 211, a total of 31 teams qualified, ‘field’ here meaning ‘all the people or teams in a competition’. As always happens, the host nation (= country where the World Cup takes place – this year, Russia) qualified automatically. The resulting 32 teams were put into eight groups of four teams.

The next phase – the ‘tournament phase’ or ‘group stage’ – will kick off in Moscow on June 14th when the host nation will face Saudi Arabia.  During the month that follows, all the teams in each group will play against each other. The two top-scoring teams from each group will then go through to the next phase and the bottom two, sadly, will leave the competition. During this phase, people often use the expression ‘the group of death’ to refer to a group that stands out because it has more talented teams than any other. This year may be a little different, however, as many of the teams that would usually be considered the favourites to win, for example Italy, Chile and Cameroon, did not qualify for the tournament.

The 16 finishers of the group stages will now enter the second and final stage of the World Cup – the knockout stage. In the first round, the winner of each group will face the runner-up of another group and the winners of those matches will then go through to the quarter finals.  In this nail-biting phase, teams are knocked out (= removed from the tournament after a defeat). The two losing teams of the semi-finals will take part in a playoff in order to decide third place. In the knockout stage, if a match ends in a draw (=equal points), two 15-minute periods of extra time are played. If the score is still level, a penalty shoot-out decides the winner, each team taking turns to have a set number of kicks at the goal.

So who do you hope will lift the World Cup trophy on July 15th? Is it the defending champions (= team who won the last tournament), Germany, or one of the other favourites to win? Perhaps you’ll be supporting the underdog (= team least likely to win) or one of the debut (= first time) nations, Panama or Iceland. Whoever you support, have a fabulous World Cup!

13 thoughts on “The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup)

  1. F Hossain

    Informative and timely writing meant for catering to the World Cup soccer vocabulary seekers. Thank you, Kate for the fantastic work.

  2. Martha Beatriz Diaz Sanchez

    The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup
    I would like if Mexico that stands out because it has more talented teams than any other.
    DIFFICULT:

  3. Alex

    Amazing article! New vocabulary / detailed explanation / for those who loves soccer.
    Brazil team is going to lift the trophy, this is for sure. 🙂
    Go Brazil!

  4. Ary

    Mrs. Woodford
    Primarily, we need to take into account the background and tradition of each national team in terms of soccer in order to make a good forecast. It takes time to be well prepared to lift the World Cup Trophy (made of 6 kg of gold!). That is why the underdogs have little chance to win the competition. Every champions had already excellent background at the time they won the FIFA World Cup along the history. It took Spanish team, for instance, much time to be able to lift for first time the coveted trophy.
    In this context, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentine are the teams that have won more FIFA World Cups. Between them only Brazil, Germany and Argentine are qualified. Germany is the defending champion. Brazil was the first top-scoring team in the qualification phase, and in other words, it was the best from a field of 211. Argentine team is eager to win the tournament because it has been waiting many years to do so and they have Messi, one of the best players of the world beside Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. Even though Germany team have defeated Brazil in the last Cup, Brazil seems to have a well-prepared team and it can count on its supporter in the host country, Russia. As was recently published, the Brazilians were the second major ticket buyers, behind only North Americans, for the matches in Russia.
    Thus, we will see what it will take place in the days to come, but I hope Brazil and Argentine reach the semi-finals. However, in soccer you never know what you are going to get! If Brazil team win the World Cup, it will be for the sixth time, it will be a must! Brazil!!! Thanks for your useful and timely post.

  5. Marc

    This year may be a little different, however, as many of the teams that would usually be considered the favourites to win, for example Italy, Chile and Cameroon, did not qualify for the tournament. This should read: This year may be a little different, however, as many of the teams that would usually be considered the favourites to win, for example Italy, Chile, the Netherlands and Cameroon, did not qualify for the tournament.
    No orange in our streets, regrettably.

  6. Thanks for the post. I think France is arguably the strongest side this time. It will be difficult for Argentina to progress into the semi-finals, because they are not a well-coordinated team. It’s undeniable that there is one of the great players in the world in their squad, but this status has always kept him under pressure in major tournaments, we have seen that many times. Most possibly, Brazil and Germany will be in the semi-finals, but their future after that is unpredictable, especially in the case of Brazil. About Spain, nothing is predictable, yet there is a less chance for them to be emerged as the winners. I think the team to watch our for is Portugal. Apart from the presence of a classy player in their side, Portugal is a able to beat any team, they proved it well in the last edition of the Euro Cup. But we have to wait to see who will lift the trophy, because anything may happen in soccer.

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