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5 World Cup Talking Points For Those Who Know Nothing About Soccer

Want to impress your football fan friends? Here are the names to drop and memes to reference.

First rule of the World Cup: never call it soccer. None of the teams who actually qualify for the tournament call the sport by this name, so you shouldn’t either. (Actually, Australia qualified this year. But they didn’t win a single game, so it’s barely worth counting them.)

So, football. Even if you know nothing about the sport, you’re likely aware that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is currently happening in Russia. And whether you care about the sport or not, this is an event you should be paying attention to. Over the past two tournaments, the World Cup has attracted an average of 3.2 billion viewers, making it the most watched live television event of the 21st century. (For comparison sake, an estimated 103.4 million people tuned into watch the 2018 Superbowl.)

No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid conversations about the World Cup. But even if you aren’t an expert, you can contribute to the chatter. From buzzwords to viral memes, here are a few simple (and interesting!) talking points hit, and when to use them.

1. “Mbappe is the future of football talent.”

Photography by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

WHAT IT MEANS: Meet football’s next superstar. Kylian Mbappe is only 19 years old, but already the French striker is being compared to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored twice in France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina, becoming the first teenager to score twice in a World Cup match since Pelé. (Who, FYI, is widely regarded as the best player of all time.)

Right now, Mbappe plays for French club Paris Saint-Germain alongside Brazil’s superstar player, Neymar. With his current team, he’s the third most expensive player in the world, reports Business Insider. And to top it all off, he’s got a good heart. ESPN reported that Mbappe will be donating his World Cup bonus—approximately $30,000 per match—to Premiers de Cordée Association, a charity that helps children with disabilities play sports.

WHEN TO SAY IT: Anytime someone brings up Messi or Ronaldo.


2. “Japan is the real winner of the World Cup.” 

WHAT IT MEANS: Japan’s 2018 World Cup came to a pretty heartbreaking end at the round of 16. After leading 2-0, Belgium caught up and beat Japan in the 94th minute of the knock-out game. These are the kind of tough losses that sometimes cause players to walk off the field, and fans to riot in the streets. Instead, this happened.

You see that little handwritten note on the table? That says “thank you” in Russian. Japan’s fans were top-class too.

WHEN TO SAY IT: Anytime someone asks who you should win the World Cup finals.


3. “Do you think they’ll let VAR decide?” 

WHAT IT MEANS: For the first time, FIFA has brought video assisted refereeing (VAR) into the World Cup. The technology was introduced in hopes of improving the referee’s accuracy and decision making, and is used in instances when the referee is having a hard time making a call. When you see a ref drawing a rectangle with his arms (replicating a TV screen), the video referee will step in to review the incident. The referee will then make the same signal if he wishes to change his decision.

WHEN TO SAY IT: Anytime people seem upset about a penalty call, or start screaming “OFFSIDE!”


4. “It’s coming home.”

WHAT IT MEANS: It’s been a long 52 years since England won the World Cup. With a shot at bringing home the FIFA trophy, English footy fans have been creating team-supporting memes that leave the rest of the world a little confused.

Explainer: “It’s coming home,” is part of England’s official football song Three Lions, and was originally introduced in 1996, when the Euro Championship was hosted in England. England is, after all, technically the birthplace of the sport. If their team wins the World Cup, they will literally be bringing the game back home.

With a strong team and an opportunity to make it to the finals, even Queen E is getting in on the excitement.

WHEN TO SAY IT: Anytime you’re around England fans.


5. “So, who are you thinking will win the Golden Boot?”

WHAT IT MEANS: At the end of the tournament, the Golden Boot is awarded to the top scorer of the FIFA World Cup. Right now, England’s Harry Kane is leading the competition with six goals. But, depending on these next few games, France’s Kylian Mbappe (refer to talking point #1) and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (that unusually tall guy) are both in a position to take home the gilded prize.

WHEN TO SAY IT: Anytime you have nothing else to contribute to the conversation.

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