The Brazilian Soccer Infographic

What’s a pigeon without wings? What’s a cow dribble? Learn some Brazilian soccer terms in time for the World Cup in Brazil.
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The Brazilian Soccer Infographic


To say that soccer is Brazil’s national pastime doesn’t quite encompass the deep love that Brazilians have for futebol. People of all walks of life embrace the game – from kids playing in the street to the 10,000 Brazilians on professional teams around the world. Brazilians refer to their country as “o País do Futebol” (the country of football) and, when a big game is on, entire cities tend to close for business so people can watch it.

We Are The Champions

Brazil has plenty of reasons to be obsessed with soccer: the country has the best record in World Cup history and is the home of many of soccer’s most legendary players. The Brazilian National Team has won the World Cup a record five times (in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and is the only team to have played in every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930. On the eve of this year’s tournament – which Brazil is hosting for the first time since 1950 – the Brazilian National Team has the most all-time wins (67) and most goals scored (210) in World Cup matches.

Local Insight

Brazilians clearly know their stuff when it comes to futebol. So I consulted Pedro, our resident carioca da gema, for the inside track on Brazilian-Portuguese football terminology. Brazilian footballers have a style all their own and, not surprisingly, their fans have a unique lexicon to go along with it:

The Best Brazilian Football Sayings

  • Where the owl sleeps (onde a coruja dorme) refers to the corner of the goalpost.
  • To give a hat (dar um chapéu) means to chip the ball over a defender’s head and run past them.
  • You say that a defender went to buy bread (comprar pão) when he’s been so totally flummoxed by an attacker that he’s simply left standing. Another way to describe this situation is that the defender was left without mom and dad (ficar sem pai nem mãe) .
  • A cow dribble (o drible da vaca) is a play where you kick the ball to one side of an opponent and run around the other.
  • To give a small egg (dar um ovinho) means to kick the ball through a defender’s legs. The term is specific to Rio de Janeiro, while in other parts of Brazil they say to give a pen (dar uma caneta). In English, this is called getting “nutmegged”.
  • A pigeon without wings (um pombo sem asas) is a ball that’s been kicked towards the goal, with incredible force, from very far away.
  • During a game in 1961 in Rio’s Maracanã stadium, Pelé scored a goal so awe-inspiring that a plaque was erected, stating, “In this stadium on March 5, 1961, Pelé scored the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã”. It was the first plaque goal (gol de placa), and ever since um gol de placa refers to a goal so superlative that it deserves comparison to Pelé’s original.
  • A really beautiful play can be referred to as a painting (uma pintura).

Bonus: Goalie Terms

Goalkeepers have it tough; there seem to only be clever phrases for when they screw up:

  • You say that a goalie gets a chicken or gets a rooster (levar um frango/levar um peru) when he makes a bad mistake.
  • If he misses an easy save because his hands are too weak to resist the force of the ball you say that he had lettuce hands (ele tem mãos de alface).

Can’t get enough of these Brazilian soccer expressions? Check out our video which brings the infographic to life (along with colorful Portuguese commentary).

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