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French football phrases you may hear in England-France World Cup game

While we list quotes from years gone by, the events of the match could also produce the next memorable sentence to be passed on through the generations

As the ‘Rosbifs’ and the ‘Froggies’ face each other tomorrow (December 10) at 20:00 (French time) for the last World Cup Qatar quarter final, The Connexion looks at common French football phrases.

The following list includes famous comments from pundits and well-known fan phrases, but the events of this match could produce new terms that will go down in football history, as has been the case during previous World Cups.

We asked readers which team they are going to support on Saturday and the response was divided with reader Margaret Landaw even saying she will support “les deux [both], that way I can’t lose!”

Here are some of the terms or sentences that you may hear on Saturday.

War imagery

“I’m Scottish… the Auld Alliance has never been revoked!,” reader Ken Anderson said, in a reference to the defensive military alliance signed in 1295 between Scotland and France against England. 

Just like Mr Anderson’s quote, football is filled with language relating to conflict, fights and ‘blood, sweat and tears’, conjuring up a sense of physical force and dominance. French expressions are no exception. 

Goalkeepers are often ‘crucifiés’ (crucified) when they err and allow a goal, there is often ‘la bataille du milieu’ (the midfield battle) and ‘du terrain à conquérir’ (field to conquer), and the offensive line is often described as ‘l’armada offensif’ or ‘l’arsenal offensif’. 

Kylian Mbappé is France’s ‘arme létale’ (lethal weapon) and manager Didier Deschamps will bring ‘du sang neuf’ (‘fresh legs’ but French use the word blood instead).

However, French sports newspaper L’Equipe is careful not to use too much war imagery, especially within the current geopolitical context, and it is probable TF1’s duo will keep these expressions to a minimum as well. 

Which of the two teams will ‘faire parler la poudre’ (loosely: let their feet do the talking) the most?

A small toolbox of French terms

  • French players, coaches and supporters say box-to-box in English to describe a player running…from box to box.
  • Dépassement de fonction’ is a French term to refer to a player who does more than is asked of them and takes extra responsibilities. 
  • Dézoner’ (outzone) could be employed for Antoine Griezmann on Saturday, as he could get the ball in an area lower down the pitch than is intended by his role. 
  • Mettre dans la boîte’ is when players cross the ball into the penalty area. 
  • ‘Café crème’, ‘double espresso’ or ‘café noisette’ are terms to be used if Mbappé dribbles past England right-back Kyle Walker. They are all related to coffee orders and employed when the dribble is rare, outstanding and difficult to do in a metaphor somehow aligning with the ‘cherry on the cake’. 
  • Corner à la nantaise’ is the French equivalent of teams kicking corners with a pass to a nearby teammate rather than crossing directly into the penalty area. It takes its term from FC Nantes which popularised it in the 70s.

Cliché phrases 

French people describe those who use too many football-related cliché terms as being a ‘Footix’, which is the name of France’s 1998 World Cup mascot.  

‘Footix’ are often people with very little football knowledge but who take an interest because of mainstream coverage and simply repeat the common sentences they have heard before. 

Connexion readers may hear the following phrases if they watch the match alongside French people who are not huge football fans:

  • Le football est un sport de gentlemen joué par des brutes. Le rugby est un sport de brutes joué par des gentlemen’ (Football is a gentleman's sport played by savages. Rugby is a savage sport played by gentlemen). 
  • Le football est un sport qui se joue à 11 et à la fin c’est l’Allemagne qui gagne’ (Football is a sport of eleven players where Germany wins at the end).

Too bad they were eliminated during the group stage!

  • Le football, c’est juste des gens qui courent après un ballon’ (Football is just people running after a ball).
  • Un match dure 90 minutes’ (It’s a 90-minute game), suggesting that nothing is ever guaranteed until the final whistle. 

Try to catch the next sentence that will go down in history

Bixente Lizarazu and Grégoire Margotton have been commentating on France's international games for TF1 since 2017, Qatar being their second World Cup. The duo are well-liked because of their clear on-screen camaraderie. 

Every match in France’s 2018 World Cup push to victory was accompanied by the pair’s excited clamour.

Second poteau Pavaaaaaaaaard!” (Top corner, Pavard!) is Mr Margotton’s best-known World Cup moment, a sentence he started as defender Lucas Hernandez crossed to the far post and finished ecstatically when right-back Benjamin Pavard volleyed to score what would be later named as the tournament’s best goal.

Il en suffira d’une” (We only need one) is another of Mr Margotton’s popular 2018 quotes during the semi-final against Belgium, as France was about to take a corner that would result in a winning header from Samuel Umtiti to give France a 1-0 victory.

Pas ça Zinédine. Oh non pas ça. Pas aujourd’hui. Pas maintenant. Pas après tout ce que tu as fait.” (“Not this Zinédine. Oh no, not this! Not today. Not now. Not after all you have done”) is another famous plea that has gone down in history.
It was pronounced by former TF1 commentator Thierry Gilardi, after Zinédine Zidane headbutted Italian player Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup. The action immediately led viewers to believe Zidane would be 'red-carded' (sent off) which happened after several minutes of confusion. 

La France est championne du monde! Je crois qu’après avoir vu ça, on peut mourir tranquille. Le plus tard possible mais on peut” (“France is champion of the world! I think after having seen this, we can die happy. The later the better, but we can”) is the last memorable one.

It was said by former TF1 commentator Thierry Roland seconds after France won its first World Cup against Brazil in 1998.

Keep an eye out for France’s next historic football quote! Allez les Bleus!

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