What does "break up" mean in football (soccer) context?

Grealish pulled one back and almost set up the equaliser as his ball in narrowly evaded Hogan. Moments later, Norwich broke up the field and James Maddison netted from close range to make it three.

1 Answer 1


Not "broke up", but "broke, up the field" (not a phrasal verb, but a verb followed by a prepositional phrase)

A break in football is a counter-attack. Aston Villa attacked, and so the midfield and defensive line moved forward to attacking positions. When Norwich got the ball back they rapidly advanced, and because Villa had players in attacking positions there were fewer defenders. Scoring a goal "on the break" means taking the ball the whole length of the pitch and then scoring. When attacking, defenders should push forward to support the midfield, but must always be on the look-out for the break.

So Norwich broke and scored. Saying that they broke "up the field" is redundant. But some redundancy is normal, natural and useful in speech.

  • Yes, I agree. I am a bit confused by "when attacking, defenders should push forward".....do defenders attack?
    – Lambie
    Apr 7, 2018 at 15:39
  • 1
    This is more football tactics that ELL, but the defenders should advance at least to the midway line during an attack and can push forward to support the midfield, give the option of a back-pass, or even move into a goal scoring postion. This means that opposition players have to stay in their own half to remain on-side. Similarly the forwards need to drop back and defend when under attack. These tactics are called total football and are the dominant strategy since the 1950s. These tactics are proven effective, but defenders do need to watch for the break, and they require a fit team.
    – James K
    Apr 7, 2018 at 16:08
  • Am I telling a Brazillian how to play football, or am I teaching my grandmother to suck eggs?
    – James K
    Apr 7, 2018 at 16:10

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