World Cup Spanish questions

Colombia has won all four of its first four games at the World Cup (Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan, Uruguay), and the excitement here is extreme, to say the least. Led by Argentinian coach José Pékerman, the national team has impressed big time. The midfielder James Rodríguez (pronounced HAH-mez, not James)–the so-called breakout star of the World Cup–has scored five goals in the four games and had two assists. His first goal in the game against Uruguay has been lauded worldwide as a thing of sheer beauty and genius. Oh, and Costa Rica has also made it to the quarterfinals under Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto, the first Colombian coach to make it that far. If your team is out or never quite made it to the drawing board, I respectfully suggest Colombia as a great team to follow. And I’m not the only one: here are some excellent reasons via photos and video to convince you to pull for Los Cafeteros.

Post-goal team happy dance

Post-goal team happy dance

I’ve watched so many games recently–not just Colombia, but many others as well–that I need a break this week. Just like the players need to rest before they face Brazil on Friday, I’m sure that many fans also need a hiatus so that we can recharge our batteries for the big match. The drama, nail biting, and jubilation are getting to be a bit exhausting! So, in lieu of watching soccer, I’ll do some blogging on World Cup vocabulary. If you don’t know what’s going on, here’s the best way to fake it. Brought to you by an expert faker, the best of the best: Vocabat.

A deft, well-timed question is really all you need so that it appears that you have a clue. If nothing else, you know what questions one’s supposed to ask, and you’ll likely then be politely left alone. Additional commentary is not only unnecessary, it also requires that you have at least a slight understanding of what’s going on. And that’s easy to screw up, believe me.

What’s the score? – ¿Cómo van?

I’d say that this is far and away the most useful, all-purpose, and colloquial way of asking who’s winning and who’s losing. I hesitate to even share any other options, just because this is the one you really should reach for. But, in case you ever feel the need to switch things up or need to be able to recognize a variant on ¿Cómo van?, here are equally acceptable ways of asking the score. As always, mileage may vary depending on the country.

During the game: ¿Cómo va el partido? ¿Quién va ganando? ¿Cómo va el marcador? ¿Quién gana? ¿Cuánto van? ¿A cuánto van? 

After the game: ¿Cómo terminó el partido? ¿Cómo quedó el partido? ¿Cómo quedaron? ¿Cuál fue el marcador? ¿Cómo fue el resultado?

Confession time: With my tail between my legs, I have to admit that I didn’t know the word marcador for score before the World Cup. Now I’m hearing it left and right, but it just wasn’t on my radar before. In fact, if pressed, I would have fumbled and offered up puntuación, but it turns out that that’s usually not the word you want for the score of sports events. It’s more like the score on a test. So, puntuación OUT, marcador IN. I’m clearly a fair-weather sports fan.

To answer this question, you can say something like:

Colombia le va ganando a Brasil, van 4-0.

Gana Costa Rica 2 a 1.

Va ganando Estados Unidos 1 a 0.

Van 5 a 1 para Holanda.

And now you know where my sympathies lie, roughly in that order, too!

james rodríguez selección colombia

James Rodríguez

Time for the next crucial question.

Who are you rooting for? Who do you want to win? – ¿Por quién vas?

Again, I think ¿Por quién vas? is the only one you really need to know, but there are little tweaks to this construction that you might hear.

¿Con quién vas? ¿A quién le vas? ¿A quién le haces fuerza? 

To answer:

Voy por Colombia, ni más faltaba.

¡¡¡Vamos con Holanda!!!

Él le iba a Camerún, ahora a Francia.

No sé a quién le voy a hacer fuerza, estoy entre Estados Unidos y Alemania.

Any more questions? Practice these, and I’ll have some more vocabulary soon so you can make astute, spot-on comments in Spanish while watching the World Cup. Go USA! ¡Y vamos Colombia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

16 responses to “World Cup Spanish questions

  1. There are many words and questions to learn during this World Cup, some of them when the match doesn’t go the way u expected. These days the results at the very end let us hear everywhere the word “chiripazo” like today results for Argentina. I bet u have learnt some new inapropriate words lately :)


    • Yeah, but for me and you, Adra, things have gone exactly the way we’ve hoped for!!!! And may that continue!!!!

      I was thinking of doing an -azo themed post, focusing on sports especially- golazo, arquerazo, partidazo, codazo, cabezazo, equipazo, chiripazo, etc.

      Ha, well there is so much yelling and bulla that’s it’s a little hard to pick up new words. And, again, Colombia hasn’t really given us any reasons to get angry, sad, or frustrated yet. But if you have some inappropriate words to suggest, we’re all ears :)


  2. for sports teams I usually hear “yo soy (mi equipo)” o “yo soy de (mi equipo)”.. not sure if this common with la selección. Buena suerte en la copa. Mis dos países han faltado pero espero que Colombia continua con ganas!


  3. We are big time bummed here with the elimination of Team USA. I wish I had your gift of words to describe the enthusiasm generated around the USA, and the World Cup in general. There is a noticeable difference this time around, compared to previous years. World Cup-related news have made the front pages of the local newspapers, including the tabloids and the New York Times (not sure about the Wall Street Journal, but possibly). If you find yourself on the street during a game, you can hear the shouts coming from bars and apartments after a team scores a goal, and when it was Team USA’s those shouts were louder. Last week, the governor of New York gave the State workers and extra hour at lunch so they could watch the match against Germany. Today there were plenty of articles about leaving work early to watch the match. Soldier Field in Chicago opened its doors and had a huge screen for people to watch the game. Here in New York they also had big screens outdoors, and you could not believe the crowds. Or the number of people on the streets wearing the Team’s jersey.

    Well, Team USA did a good job. They had their chances but could not capitalize on them. It won’t be as much fun now, but there is plenty of good action coming up. New York is a great place to be during the World Cup because no matter which team is playing you are sure to find a big following for them. We will have lots of excitement through the end.
    I guess it is good that the unlikely and dreadful possibility of a USA-Colombia final did not come to fruition; that would have been tough. Now, let’s see how far Colombia goes.

    I should contribute something related to your post, right? Here is one: when you see one of those countless dives you can say, “está haciendo teatro,” or “está haciendo paro.” Or simply, “puro paro.” “Está quemando tiempo.” And a little correction: it is “Colombia LE va ganando a Brasil…” You would say, Colombia va ganando el partido, but LE va ganando a… If I were playing a game with you, I would say, “te voy ganando” or “te gané,” but if I am not making it personal but just refer to the game then I’d say “gané.”

    BTW, Howard es un porterazo.


    • So… I didn’t watch the USA game. So shoot me! I was serious when I said I needed a break this week. It was all getting to be a bit much, though so much fun. From what I’ve read, it seems that the World Cup following is definitely picking up in the US! Buena esa! Love it. Good point about NY being a great place to be during World Cup fever. I am really feeling hopeful about Colombia v. Brazil. Pase lo que pase, it’s going to be a great game!

      Excellent contributions, thanks a lot! And you are so right about le gané. I didn’t write those sentences, but I won’t use that as a cop-out. Consider it fixed! ;)


  4. HI. I was wondering if you were going to write an entry on the World Cup considering how well Colombia is doing. And here it is :)

    Thanks for clarifying the Rodriguez first name issue. I was wondering how to pronounce it. Now I know :) By the way, there’s this player in the Costa Rican team called Junior Diaz- he used to play for a Polish club and somehow the TV people here started pronouncing the “Junior” bit of his name in a way which sounds Portuguese rather than Spanish for me. Can you clarify how it should be pronounced?

    Also, a propos the World Cup but also the “-azo” thing, one word I suggest is “Maracanazo” (the shocking defeat suffered by Brazil on Maracana during the final match of the 1950 tournament). You probably recognize the pattern “place name+azo” used to signify some great disaster (i.e. Bogotazo or Caracazo).

    Thanks for the phrases.


    • Hey! Yep, I’m letting myself be predictable for once. I’m writing another one now.

      I’m impressed you know about the place name + -azo construction. I didn’t know about the Caracazo, but the Bogotazo completely changed this country. When I do the -azo post (something I’ve been thinking about for years!), I’ll definitely include something about the Maracanazo. Now we just need a Castelazo this Friday!

      Can’t find anything about Júnior Díaz, and I don’t know anything about Portuguese pronunciations. Readers, can anyone shed any light?

      Hey, how’s your Spanish going? Do you have any Spanish-speaking friends where you live?


  5. Pingback: Música para apoyar a Colombia en la Copa Mundial | Bilinguish

  6. The Portuguese/Brazilian pronunciation of “j” would be similar to French, if that tells you anything. I can’t properly describe it because English doesn’t use this sound. Anyway there’s a Costa Rican girl on one forum where I post, so I’ll just ask her how she pronounces it.

    My Spanish isn’t going anywhere. What’s even worse is that I don’t have much motivation for continuiting with my Italian either. It turned out that the local language schools where I asked don’t offer summer courses at my level. The nearest one will start in October.


    • Ah, interesting. In English, I feel like we usually write “zh” to describe that sound.

      I had the impression that your Italian was very advanced! Don’t give it up. And, gee, when you are dropping references to -azo constructions like they’re any old thing, that tells me that you should definitely keep up with your Spanish! Why not come down and visit us here in Colombia? I have a friend who organizes luxury VIP tours here for Polish people: -just make sure to invite me along ;)


  7. As for me knowing the place name+azo construction it’s not so much because of my (modest) language skills in Spanish, but rather because I like reading about random things. Plus, I like learning ABOUT languages (probably more than I like learning how to actively use these languages…).

    My first guess about “marcador” would have been either “striker” or “goalscorer”. Wrong, as I can see :)
    For following a team I think I remember the “-ista” suffix (especially “madritista”).


  8. Reblogged this on the red angle and commented:
    I was considering a post on general World Cup vocabulario, but Señorita Vocabat beat me to it… and did a much better job than I would have. It’s a great post that I’m happy to re-post!



  9. After the yesterday’s there’s another -azo to be added to your future article: Mineirazo.


    • I know that many countries were happy about that result, but it’s hard to imagine that there were any happier than Colombia. We were on cloud nine, which is putting it very, very mildly :) Lots of great memes came out of it.

      Another -azo! If I can get on the ball, I’m going to try to write that -azo post today! (Though posts take me forever to write, even if they might seem deceptively simple. So, look for it tomorrow or later in the week.)


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