A Brazilian English guide for the World Cup

Just like the during the Olympic Games, many people simply put their lives to a halt during the World Cup. OK, at least put whatever they can on hold during the games. And, obviously, there must be some expressions used in football (or soccer) that are very regional, or only used in that particular country, by a particular group of people. Here’s a very brief tongue-in-cheek guide to Brazilian English, i.e. how would Brazilians speak if they literally translated the expressions they use here into English. After all, who doesn’t want to speak like the only 5-time champions of the world?

  • A lightning goal – when a team scores a goal very early in the game. [England scored a lightning goal when they played the USA.]
  • To swallow a chicken – when a goalkeeper fails to catch a very easy ball. This can also be called simply as “a chicken“. If it was a very easy ball to catch and the goalie doesn’t do that, you can say it was “a big fat chicken“. [The English goalie swallowed a big fat chicken in the game.]
  • A wingless pigeon – a very strong, powerful kick. [There was no way the goalie could get that wingless pigeon.]
  • A thief – A referee that isn’t good because he’s partial to one of the teams. [Brazil only lost the game because that ref was a thief.]
  • A killer (or a hit man) – A very good striker who scores lots of goals. [Ronaldo was the killer in the 2002 World Cup.]
  • A big wall – A very good goalkeeper, or a player who doesn’t let the other team go past him. [Julio César is a big wall – he’s the best goalie in the world!]


After Willy’s comment (click here to visit his blog and twitter), and a quick trip to a mall where people were watching Gana x Slovenia, I could remember a couple of other expressions people use in Brazilian Portuguese. This is their literal translation:

  • To eat the ball – A player who plays extremely well and pretty much owns the game. [Kaka and Robinho are going to eat the ball in the 2010 World Cup.]
  • A lukewarm game – When the game isn’t exciting, you say it’s a lukewarm game. [Argelia versus Slovenia was a lukewarm game.]
  • A hat – Willy reminded me of this one. This is when a player makes the ball go over another player. You can see it here. [Zidane gave a hat in Ronaldo in 2006.]
  • A pen – This is one of the most beautiful plays in football. It happens when a player gets the ball under the legs of its opponent. Again, you can see it here. [After giving the goalie a pen, the striker scored a fantastic goal!]
  • The cow’s dribble – Another one that Willy reminded me of, this one happens when a player kicks the ball to the left but runs to the right, leaving the opponent in the middle. One of the most beautiful I’ve seen is this one by Edmundo (Vasco da Gama) in a match against Manchester United in 2000. Just click here to see it.
  • To win by a big wash – This is the translation for when the game was a cakewalk for one of the teams, i.e. a very easy win with lots of goals. [Santos won the game by 8 x 1. What a big wash!]

* End of Update! *

I’m sure other Brazilian friends who are more into football than I am can contribute to this humorous guide.

What about the expressions used in your country? How would you literally translate them into English?

9 thoughts on “A Brazilian English guide for the World Cup

    1. Hi Fernando,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it! After Willy’s comments and also going to the mall this morning and spending some time watching the game among some other people, I could finally remember some other expressions used in Portuguese and that would sound funny when literally translated into English. I guess I’ll have to update the post! Feel free to contribute, please!


  1. How would you say ‘ganhar de lavada’?

    What would an English speaker understand by ‘the cow’s dribble’? Or ‘hat’?
    Good ones, uh? I have no idea how they call it in English.

    1. Hi Willy,

      Thanks for the contribution. Some of the terms are so natural for us that we never get to think about them in a foreign language. I guess I’ll just update the post with your suggestions and add a couple of others that came to mind and hope for a football fan to add some ways to say those things in English – or maybe to incorporate that into their language. 🙂

  2. Great post, thanks Henrick! If only I were a Londoner, I’m sure I could give you some Cockney rhyming slang which, although English, makes no sense to us Brits outside the capital (and probably a grand majority of those in it too!).

    1. Oh, some cockney rhyming slang would be swell. I probably would not be able to understand Jack, but it would most certainly be funny to read that! 🙂
      I just hope Brazil scores lots of “lightning goals” and that all keepers who are playing against Brazil “swallow lots of chicken”! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s