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Football, often dubbed “the beautiful game,” transcends borders and cultures, uniting fans worldwide with its passion and excitement. Yet, navigating the intricacies of football terminology and understanding the nuances of various parameters can be a daunting task, even for seasoned enthusiasts. In the ever-evolving landscape of football analytics and statistics, staying informed is essential.

In this article, we delve into the world of football, equipping you with a powerful tool: a comprehensive Comparisonator Glossary of Terms and Parameters. Whether you’re a dedicated supporter looking to deepen your understanding or a football professional seeking to enhance your analysis, this glossary is your roadmap to unraveling the mysteries of football jargon and metrics.

Join us on this journey as we decode the language of the game, demystify complex statistical parameters, and explore the key terms that define football in all its glory. Whether you’re intrigued by Expected Goals (xG), fascinated by Pressures, or curious about Through Balls, our Comparisonator Glossary is your ultimate reference guide, providing clarity and insight into the football universe. Let’s kick off our exploration and discover the game’s hidden gems together.

1- What is Acceleration?
Acceleration in soccer involves swiftly propelling the ball forward at a notable pace. It is typically attributed to purposeful runs that cover a minimum distance of 10 meters. Acceleration, in essence, represents the pace at which an athlete can enhance their velocity during motion. Mastering acceleration is vital for expeditiously attaining one’s maximum speed. It is imperative for the player to make contact with the ball during this maneuver; otherwise, a purposeful run in open space would be categorized as an off-the-ball movement. Notably, approximately half of all accelerations also encompass progressive runs.

2- What is Clearance?
Clearance is when a player kicks the ball away from the goal they are defending. Clearance is an Action (generally a pass) when the player, while having other option, to pass or to hold the ball, is instead clearing it, either with a long pass forward without a precise target or for a throw in/corner kick, playing safe. Clearance is a defensive move made by a player to get the ball out of their team’s penalty area and away from danger. Clearance is a defensive action where a player kicks the ball away from their own goal with no intended recipient of the ball. Most of the time the player clearing the ball would be under pressure. A significant amount of clearances are Long forward passes. About half of clearances are Interceptions (a player is interrupting a pass to clear the ball out).

3- What is Counterattack?
Clearance in soccer refers to the act of a player kicking the ball away from the goal they are tasked with defending. This action typically takes the form of a pass, even when other options such as passing to a teammate or holding onto the ball are available. In such instances, the player opts for a clearance, often executing a long pass forward without a specific target or aiming for a throw-in or corner kick, prioritizing safety. Clearance is primarily a defensive maneuver used by players to remove the ball from their team’s penalty area and eliminate potential threats. It involves kicking the ball away from their own goal without a predetermined recipient. Notably, clearances are often executed under pressure, as the player seeks to alleviate immediate danger. Interestingly, a substantial portion of clearances take the form of long forward passes. Additionally, roughly half of all clearances are a result of interceptions, wherein a player disrupts an opponent’s pass in order to clear the ball from the danger zone.

4- What is Duel?
A soccer duel is a contest between two players trying to control, move, or change the direction of the ball. Duels always involve two players: one on offense and one on defense.

There are different types of duels:

Offensive Duel: In this type of duel, a player with the ball (below elbow height) tries to pass an opponent while the opponent attempts to take the ball away.
Defensive Duel: This is the opposite of the offensive duel. Here, a player tries to gain possession or dispossess an opponent who has the ball (below elbow height) and is attempting to pass.
Loose Ball Duel: Two players from opposing teams with an equal chance compete (below elbow height) to either gain possession of the ball or redirect it favorably.
Aerial Duel: This occurs when two or more players compete to touch the ball above elbow height, typically using their heads. If more than two players are involved in an aerial duel, separate duels are tracked for each player on opposing teams.

Every duel has a result, which can be either a win or a loss, depending on the specific type of duel. In cases where one of the two players cannot be identified, we assign playerId=0 to one of the duel participants.

5- What is Dribble?
Dribbling in soccer is when a player tries to get past an opponent while keeping control of the ball. It’s like a skillful dance with the ball as the player moves around the field. The player with the ball is trying to go in a certain direction and avoid defenders who are trying to take the ball away. Sometimes, this maneuver succeeds, and sometimes it doesn’t.

A successful dribble happens when one of these things occurs next:

The same offensive player does something closer to the opponent’s goal.
The dribble is followed by a pass to a teammate who is closer to the opponent’s goal (a successful forward pass).
The defender fouls the player.
In these situations, we say the dribble is won. Anything else is considered a lost dribble, and the defender wins that duel.

6- What is Sliding tackle?
A sliding tackle in soccer is a bold move where a player slides along the ground to challenge an opponent by aiming for their legs. The goal is either to take the ball away from the opponent or to clear it out of a dangerous situation. This type of action falls under the category of duels, specifically either a ground defensive duel or a loose ball duel.

When a player attempts a sliding tackle and it results in a foul, it’s recorded as both a sliding tackle and a foul. Slide tackles are the most eye-catching and dramatic form of tackles in football. They are typically used as a last-resort defense because they require the player to sacrifice balance and dive to the ground. The most common situation for a slide tackle is when a player is racing alongside an opponent to get to the ball, and they slide in with a bent leg to make a play on the ball.

7- What is Interception?
Interception in soccer is when a player proactively anticipates and intercepts the ball while the opponent is attempting to shoot, pass, or cross it. If a player, often a defender, blocks a shot, it is considered an interception. Intercepting means taking the ball away from the opposing team, which can occur when you position yourself to block a pass or disrupt a dribble. In football (soccer), an interception happens during passing plays when a defender manages to catch a pass that was originally intended for an offensive player. This occurs when a defensive player catches a pass thrown by the opposing team’s player, such as the quarterback or another offensive player.
8- What is Link-up Play?
Link-up play in soccer refers to when an attacking player receives the ball from a defender or a midfielder while facing away from the opponent’s goal. This tactical term is commonly used to describe situations where a forward drops back to connect with a teammate positioned deeper on the field. The essence of link-up play lies in players effectively combining through short, swift passes to outmaneuver the opposing team’s defensive lines and make progress towards the goal.

10- What is Opportunity?
An opportunity in soccer represents a golden chance to score a goal. It arises when an attacking player has a genuine chance to take a shot at the goal with a reasonable chance of scoring. This is also commonly referred to as a “chance.” In football, a chance denotes a scenario where a player is granted the opportunity to take a shot at the goal, with a real possibility of scoring. Such moments to score are infrequent and can sometimes be described as a chance emerging seemingly out of nowhere, indicating that a scoring opportunity has suddenly appeared.

11- What is Key pass?
A “key pass” in soccer refers to a pass that immediately sets up a clear opportunity for a teammate to score a goal. Key passes specifically involve different types of pass actions, and if a key pass leads to a shot attempt, it’s assigned an “xA” value. Additionally, a key pass can also be counted as an assist. For a key pass to be considered successful, the next touch of the ball must be by a teammate.

In essence, a key pass represents the final pass made by a player to a teammate who then takes a shot on goal, even if the shot doesn’t result in a goal. It’s essentially a pass leading to a shot that doesn’t end up in the net. The total number of chances created is defined as the sum of key passes and assists. Generally, a key pass is a precise and pivotal pass that sets up a teammate for a shot on goal, but if that shot attempt doesn’t result in a goal, the pass is still considered a key pass rather than an assist.

12- What is Progressive pass?
A “progressive pass” in soccer is a forward pass aimed at moving a team significantly closer to the opponent’s goal. To be considered successful, a progressive pass requires the next touch of the ball to be by a teammate.

Here’s how we measure the progress made by a pass:

If the starting and finishing points are both within a team’s own half, the pass must cover a distance of at least 30 meters toward the opponent’s goal.
If the starting and finishing points are in different halves of the field, the pass needs to advance the ball at least 15 meters closer to the opponent’s goal.
If both the starting and finishing points are within the opponent’s half, the pass should push the ball at least 10 meters toward the opponent’s goal.

According to FBRef, a progressive pass can also be one that moves the ball 10 yards (equivalent to 30 feet) closer to the goal than its previous position or any completed pass into the opponent’s penalty area. Top-performing clubs often excel in making the most progressive passes per 90 minutes.

In summary, a progressive pass is a successful pass that significantly advances the ball towards the opponent’s goal, and it is a fundamental metric used to assess a player’s offensive abilities alongside through balls, which are undergoing a transformation in the world of soccer.

13- What is Shot assist?
A “shot assist” in soccer represents the last action of a player before a teammate takes a shot. Each shot assist is always linked to one specific shot, but it’s important to note that not all shots are set up by assists.

Crucially, the player making the pass does not necessarily have to intend to make an assist. In the context of scoring, the player from the team that scores the goal and completes the last pass before the goal is scored is credited with an assist. This applies to passes that are clearly intended to set up a shot but not necessarily a goal.

In essence, a “shot assist” refers to a pass or cross that directly leads to a shot attempt on goal by a teammate, even if that shot attempt doesn’t result in a goal. It’s a valuable metric in soccer that recognizes a player’s contribution in providing the final pass or cross that initiates a shot attempt on goal.

14- What is Smart pass?
A “smart pass” in soccer is a clever and incisive pass that seeks to penetrate the opponent’s defensive lines, aiming to provide a substantial advantage in the attack. Typically, smart passes are of short to medium length, but they can also be long ground passes. In the realm of football, a “smart pass” is a visionary and inventive pass executed by a player who possesses exceptional awareness, tactical intelligence, and technical skill.

15- What is Offside?
Offside occurs when an opposing player is positioned behind the last defending player at the moment the ball is played forward to them. You are considered offside if you are in the opponent’s half, and any part of your head, body, or legs is closer to the opponent’s goal line.

In football (soccer), the offside rule is a fundamental aspect of the game that is designed to prevent “goal-hanging” or “cherry-picking” by attacking players. An offside offense occurs when an attacking player is in an offside position at the moment the ball is played to them by a teammate.

Here are the key elements of the offside rule:

Offside Position: A player is considered to be in an offside position if any part of their head, body, or feet is beyond the opponent’s last defender (usually the last outfield player) and closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent at the moment the ball is played to them.

Active Involvement: Simply being in an offside position is not an offense. To be penalized for offside, the player must also be actively involved in the play. This typically means they are interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage from being in an offside position.

Not Offside: A player is not offside if they are level with the last defender or level with the second-last opponent when the ball is played to them. In other words, they need to be behind both the ball and the second-last defender to be offside.

Exceptions: There are some exceptions to the offside rule, such as when a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick, or throw-in. Players also cannot be offside in their own half of the field.

If a player is deemed to be offside, the opposing team is awarded an indirect free-kick from the place where the offside player interfered with play or gained an advantage. Offside decisions can be quite contentious and often require the assistant referees (linesmen) to make quick and accurate judgments during the game.

An offside offense occurs when a player receives a pass from a teammate after being in an offside position at the moment their teammate played the ball. The same rule applies if the ball reaches a player in an offside position due to an unintentional deflection from a defender.

16- What is Touch in box?
A “touch in the box” refers to an action, either a pass or a touch, that takes place within the opponent’s penalty area. It’s important to note that this definition does not include duels. If a player has two touches in the box during the same attacking sequence, they are counted as two separate actions. Ground duels, aerial duels, or fouls are not categorized as touches in the box.

The count of touches in the box serves as a significant metric to gauge a player’s participation in goal-scoring opportunities and their proficiency in operating from threatening positions.

17- What is Expected Goal (xG)?
Expected Goals (xG) is a statistical metric used in football (soccer) to assess the quality and likelihood of a scoring opportunity during a match. It quantifies the probability of a particular shot or goal-scoring chance resulting in a goal based on various factors such as the location of the shot, the angle, the distance from the goal, and other relevant variables.

Here are the key aspects of Expected Goals (xG) in football:

Objective Assessment: xG provides an objective way to evaluate scoring chances, taking into account multiple factors that influence the likelihood of a goal.

Shot Quality: It measures the quality of a shot, indicating whether a particular attempt was more or less likely to result in a goal, irrespective of whether the goal was scored or not.

Data and Models: xG is typically calculated using data from a large number of historical shots, and statistical models are used to analyze this data. These models assign a probability value between 0 and 1 to each shot, with higher values indicating a higher likelihood of scoring.

Use in Analysis: Coaches, analysts, and fans use xG to gain insights into a team’s offensive and defensive performance. It helps assess whether a team is creating high-quality scoring opportunities or conceding them.

Player Performance: xG can also be used to evaluate individual player performance. It allows for the assessment of a player’s ability to create or convert goal-scoring chances.

Match Analysis: It contributes to match analysis by highlighting key moments, including missed opportunities and overperforming or underperforming in terms of goals scored compared to xG.

Predictive Value: xG is not solely retrospective but also has predictive value. Teams and analysts use it to identify areas for improvement and strategize for future matches.

In essence, Expected Goals (xG) is a valuable tool for both analyzing past performances and making data-driven decisions in football. It provides a deeper understanding of the game beyond just the final score and helps quantify the impact of different factors on the outcome of a match.

18- What is Six-Yard Box?
In football (soccer), the “six-yard box” refers to a rectangular area located directly in front of the goal. It is a critical part of the penalty area. The six-yard box is a 6-yard-long (approximately 5.5 meters) and 20-yard-wide (approximately 18.3 meters) box that extends out from the goal line into the penalty area.

The primary purpose of the six-yard box is to designate the area from which goal kicks are taken. When a team is awarded a goal kick, the ball is placed within this box, and it must be kicked by a player from the defending team to initiate play.

Additionally, the six-yard box serves as a reference point for various aspects of the game, including positioning during corner kicks, offside decisions, and the location of the goalkeeper when facing certain set-piece situations.

It’s important to note that the six-yard box is a fundamental element of the penalty area, which is a critical area on the field where many significant decisions and actions in the game of football occur.

19- What is Final (Attacking) Third?
In football (soccer), the “attacking third” refers to one of the three parts or sections of the field, specifically the offensive part of the pitch. The pitch is typically divided into three equal sections:

Defensive Third: This is the area closest to the defending team’s goal. It is where the defenders and goalkeeper primarily operate.

Midfield Third: This is the middle section of the field, where midfielders play a crucial role in both offensive and defensive actions.

Attacking Third: This is the area closest to the opponent’s goal, and it is where attacking players, such as forwards and wingers, focus on creating scoring opportunities and attempting to score goals.

The attacking third is where teams concentrate their efforts to break down the opponent’s defense, create goal-scoring chances, and ultimately score goals. It is a critical area of the field in which teams seek to maintain possession, make precise passes, and execute offensive tactics to penetrate the opponent’s defensive lines and put pressure on the goalkeeper.

This division of the field into thirds helps players, coaches, and analysts better understand and strategize their approach to different phases of the game, whether it’s defending in their own third, transitioning through the midfield, or launching attacks in the attacking third.

20- What is set-piece attacking?
Set-piece attacking in football refers to a team’s offensive strategy and execution during situations where the ball is put into play from a predetermined, static position on the field. These situations typically involve free kicks, corner kicks, and throw-ins in specific areas of the pitch. Set-piece attacking plays are carefully planned and rehearsed by teams to create goal-scoring opportunities or to gain an advantage over the opponent.

Here are some key aspects of set-piece attacking in football:

Free Kicks: When a team is awarded a free kick due to a foul by the opposing team, they have the opportunity to organize an attacking play. This may involve delivering the ball into the opponent’s penalty area for a header or a shot on goal.

Corner Kicks: Corners are awarded to a team when the ball goes out of bounds over the opponent’s goal line, having last been touched by a defending player. Teams use corner kicks to put the ball into the opponent’s penalty area, typically aiming for a player to head the ball into the net.

Throw-Ins: When the ball goes out of bounds on the sideline, a team is awarded a throw-in. Although not as direct as free kicks or corners, teams may use throw-ins as opportunities to initiate attacking moves.

Tactical Planning: Set-piece plays involve a combination of tactics, positioning, and player movement. Coaches often design specific routines to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses and create scoring chances. These routines may include decoy runs, short passes, and intricate maneuvers.

Execution: Successful set-piece attacking relies on precision and timing. Players must execute the planned movements and passes accurately to take advantage of the set-piece opportunity.

Variation: Teams may employ various set-piece routines to keep opponents guessing. This includes variations in delivery, movement, and player positioning to avoid predictability.

Set-piece attacking is an integral part of a team’s offensive strategy because it provides controlled situations in which they can attempt to score goals. Teams that excel in set-piece execution can capitalize on these opportunities to gain an edge in matches. Conversely, defenses must be well-organized to defend against set-piece attacks effectively.

Didem Dilmen

Director of Communications @ Comparisonator