World Cup: How to talk about “le football” in French?


The 2018 FIFA World Cup is happening, and it’s a big deal here in France!

What is it?
How can you use it as a springboard into French culture?
And how can you talk about it around the water cooler?

Let’s dig in!

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1. Le sport

Le sport (= sport) is a popular topic for French conversations.
Especially le football (=soccer, football), which we also commonly call le foot. During la Coupe du Monde, the World Cup, there will be 64 matchs de foot, matches. They’re played in un stade, a stadium.

“Tu as vu le match hier ? Il était beau !”
Did you watch the game yesterday? It was great!

The last game they’ll play is la finale, the final.

A team is une équipe. Our French national team is l’équipe de France. We commonly call them les Bleus, the Blue Ones, for the color of their shirt. It’s also a nickname we give to the French national team in any sport.

That’s why you can hear in a stadium:
“Allez les Bleus !”
“Go the French team!”

Supporters are called… les supporters.
(Note : we sometimes “Frenchify” the term by spelling it “un supporteur”.)

“Désolée, moi je supporte l’équipe d’Argentine, c’est là que je suis née.”
“I’m sorry, I’m rooting for the Argentinian team, that’s where I was born.”

Before the final game, there are les matchs de qualifications, (= qualification matches), les matchs de poule (= pool games), les huitièmes de finale, (= 1/8th finals), les quarts de finale, (= quarter finals), une demi-finale (= a semi final).

The Belgian team is nicknamed “Les Diables rouges” (= The Red Devils). The Cameroonian team is nicknamed “Les Lions Indomptables” (= The Indomitable Lions). But the most famous French-speaking team might be… L’Équipe (= “The Team”), the French nation-wide daily newspaper devoted to sports!

L’Équipe is one of the most-read French newspapers, and the original creator of the famous bicycle race Le Tour de France. You can read L’Équipe online. Or read and watch our lesson to get an introduction to “Le Tour de France”.

2. Le match

Un match, sometimes called une rencontre (=a meeting, or an event), is 90 minutes of individual virtuosity, teamwork, and suspense! First, everyone enters le terrain (= the field).

The game is played in deux mi-temps, two 45 minutes halves.
(Note: on its own, la mi-temps is the the 10-minutes halftime pause between the two periods.)

“Oh, Michel, tu as vu le but de Griezmann dans la deuxième mi-temps ?”
Oh, Michel, did you see the goal by Griezmann during the second half?

Les joueurs, the players, try to get le ballon, the ball, to marque un but, to score a goal, without letting the other team score. When a shot flies past le gardien de but, the goalkeeper (also commonly called le goal), the crowd goes wild!

Example: Buuuuut !

The game starts and end with l’arbitre, the referee, blowing his whistle.
He’s also the one to enforce the rules and point out une faute, fouls.
Such as la main, a hand ball, le hors-jeu, an offside…
A foul play can lead to un coup franc, a direct free kick, un penalty / “un péno”, a penalty kick, or even un carton, a penalty card.

“Allez, y’avait faute là ! L’arbitre est aveugle !”
“Oh come on, that was a foul! The referee must be blind!”

A football field has deux camps (= two ends). The teams change ends between the first and the second halves. In front of each goal, there’s la surface de réparation (= the penalty area), sometimes simply called la surface.

Famous French Player for 2018

Football players can be un attaquant (= forward), un défenseur (= defender), un milieu de terrain (= midfielder)… or un remplaçant (= a substitute).
In 2018 for instance, we’ll have des attaquants such as Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappé, and des défenseurs such as Paul Pogba.

3. La Coupe du Monde de 1998

La Coupe du Monde de 1998 (= the 1998 FIFA World Cup), happened twenty years ago. And it’s still important! It happened in France, and that’s where Les Bleus won their first (and so far only) World Cup.

There was massive popular support, and giant crowds in the streets to celebrate. The players were treated as heroes, and they still are very famous: Zinedine Zidane became a giant star in France for instance, and Didier Deschamps, the team captain, is now le sélectionneur de l’équipe de France (= the national coach).

It was a big boost for the country’s morale!
(Note: Culturally, it was seen as a big victory for “La France Black Blanc Beur”, a diverse team uniting French people from all origins and minorities.)

We all sang together the 1998 French Soccer Hymn, a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Another French monument, former singer Johnny Hallyday, also got in the action with a special song: go watch it, it’s called “Tous Ensemble” and it’s amazing.

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Et toi ?

How many goals do you think the French team will score when they win the final game?

Tell me in the comments section on, I’d love to hear from you!

Bonne journée,

Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour, Geraldine! Demain après-midi, il y aura une fête à l’Alliance Française de Denver pour regarder les demi-finales de La Coupe du Monde. Très pratique pour moi … c’est juste après ma classe de français du matin. Allez les Bleus!

  • Merci bien Géraldine pour cette leçon! Nous avons vu la quart-final France-Uruguay au stade Nizhny Novgorod, et c’était génial:) Allez les Bleus!

  • Merci Géraldine pour les mots à propos le foot. Je ne suis qu’un débutant en le français, et pour moi les nouveaux mots sont très serviable. J’aime bien vos leçons. Robert

  • Merci — comme toujours — pour cette vidéo très utile et pour la chanson ! J’attends toujours avec plaisir tes leçons ! 🙂 Allez les Bleus ! (Et allez l’Argentine !)

  • Merci bien Geraldine! Chaque matin dans la salle de sports tout le monde parlent du foot et maintenant je peux en parler avec plus de confiance. C’est genial!

  • Dans le tour de seize équipe: La france 3, Argentine 1.
    C’est dommage parce que j’adore Sr. Messi, mais j’aime la France ! Allez les Bleus !

  • Mon mari et moi nous étions en France en juin pendant la Coupe du Monde de 1998. C’étais incroiable!
    Allez les Bleus!!!

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