Underdogs, curses and ‘neymaresque’ histrionics: Cambridge University Press reveals what’s been getting us talking this World Cup - Cambridge University Press (the Press) today (12 Jul) reveals the results of its global study into the language used around the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, in Russia.

There has been no shortage of surprises during this year’s action-packed competition, and this clearly shines through in the language data. Expressions such as premature exit reflect that several of the predicted favourites haven’t fared as well as expected, with the odd unforgivable blunder making an appearance, too.
 
Building on similar research conducted during the 2014 World Cup, the Press has mined over 12 million words of media coverage, to analyse the language used when discussing the various teams over the course of this year’s tournament.

Comparison with the language collected in 2014 shows that, whilst traditionally successful teams such as Brazil have gone from stylish to nervous and Argentina from having flair to struggling, World Cup 2018 underdogs such as England have gone from being inexperienced to confident.
 
The data reflects that several teams have defied expectations – the word underdogs features frequently in media reports, along with related language like plucky, determined, and punch above their weight also making an appearance.

As fans root for their home teams, the verb overcome is commonly found alongside words such as obstacles, hurdles and adversity. Even England’s long-standing penalty curse has been overcome, whereas previous champions Germany fell victim to the curse of the holders.

The introduction of Video Assisted Referee (VAR) technology has seemingly been met with mixed feelings, as it is commonly associated with words such as controversy, overturn and incident.

Despite the introduction of VAR, however, bad behaviour still abounds; the word histrionics is prominent in the data – often found alongside adjectives such as ridiculous, headline-grabbing, and amateurish. A new term has even been coined this year: neymaresque.
 
As well as analysing the language used by journalists and media commentators, The Press has also been asking fans to submit the words they would use to describe their national teams.
 
Laura Grimes, senior ELT research manager at Cambridge University Press, said: “It’s been great to see the correlation between the language used by the media and the descriptive words submitted by football fans. We’ve combined these two datasets to select the three words most strongly associated with each team.
 
“The huge amount of language data we’ve collected and analysed gives us fascinating insight into the mood surrounding the World Cup. It’s been a dramatic and surprising tournament and this is certainly reflected by the language used in the media, as well as by football fans.”
 
The Press is still inviting submissions for the public’s top three words to describe each national team. To contribute, simply visit www.cambridge.org/word-cup, click on any country and enter the three words you feel best describes this team.
 
Once submitted, you’ll be taken to a page that is updated in real time and shows the most popular words that have been submitted in a word cloud. 

About Cambridge University PressCambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Dedicated to excellence, its purpose is to further the University’s objective of advancing knowledge, education, learning and research. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 45,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, more than 350 research journals, school-level education, English language teaching and bible publishing. Playing a leading role in today’s international market place, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world.

About the Cambridge English Corpus: The Cambridge English Corpus is a multi-billion word collection of written and spoken English. It includes the Cambridge Learner Corpus, a unique bank of exam candidate papers. Our authors study the Corpus to see how English is really used, and to identify typical learner mistakes. This means that Cambridge materials help students to avoid mistakes, and you can be confident the language taught is useful, natural and fully up-to-date. Cambridge learner’s dictionaries, grammar and vocabulary training materials and examination, business and general English course books have all benefited from the information in the Cambridge English Corpus. We no longer have to rely on intuition to know what people say or write; instead, we can see how English is actually used by a huge variety of different speakers. So, materials developed with our Corpus are more authentic and can illustrate language as it is really used.
  
Top 3 words for each team:

Team

Words

Argentina
 

Messi

scraped

struggled

Australia
 

head home

bow out

failed

Belgium
 

eased

star-studded

cruised

Brazil
 

favourite(s)

nervous

expect

Colombia
 

dangerous

unsporting

struggled

Costa Rica
 

eliminated

suffered

Navas

Croatia
 

dark horse

dominate

impress

Denmark
 

penalty

propel

concede

Egypt
 

happy

hope

lack

England
 

Southgate

confident

fresh

France
 

formidable

dramatic

lucky

Germany
 

upset

stunned

eliminated

Iceland
 

debutants

surprise

newcomer

Iran
 

underdog

ambitious

VAR

Japan
 

heartbroken

emotional

clean

Mexico
 

thumped

thrashed

stunned

Morocco
 

fined

eliminated

upset

Nigeria
 

fail

struggle

kit

Panama
 

pitiful

Minnows

bully

Peru
 

struggle

missed

waste

Poland
 

fail

suffer

concede

Portugal
 

thrilling

hat-trick

Ronaldo

Russia
 

low-ranking

host

fans

Saudi Arabia
 

happy

defeat

thrashing

Senegal
 

yellow cards

partying

stunned

Serbia
 

controversial

gesture

dominate

South Korea
 

plucky

skill

hope

Spain
 

sack

frustrate

fail

Sweden
 

impressive

clinched

dominate

Switzerland
 

battle

held

secure

Tunisia
 

redeemed

failed

keeper

Uruguay
 

dangerous

success

defence

 

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