Reading Comprehension through World Cup Songs

So the World Cup is here! I'm sure many of your pupils are excited and can't wait to see their footballing idols in action.

A great resources to link to the World Cup, which helps raise standards in English but also embeds key digital literacy skills is the Read Write Perform Sports Manager Pack:


Buy the pack before England are knocked out and get my 15 iPad Lessons for the World Cup eBook for FREE!

There are also other ways in which you can use the World Cup to engage pupils in English. Music seems to go hand in hand with football, from chants in the stadiums to songs in the charts. This great article discussing the power of the football song - http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180614-world-cup-2018-the-extraordinary-power-of-the-football-song


Why not use some of the most popular songs from past World Cups and Euros as texts for comprehension? 

I have previously blogged loads of different songs you can use in class and you can read them all here:

Here are a couple of World Cup related songs you may want to use in class.

World in Motion - New Order



Here are the lyrics and some suggested questions:

Express yourself
Create the space
You know you can win
Don't give up the chase

Beat the man
Take him on
You never give up
It's one on one

  • What does it mean to express yourself? To express yourself is to show your skills or thoughts or feelings through some sort of art form. 
  • Can football be considered an art form? Why/Why not?
  • What does it mean to express yourself on a football pitch? To show how good you are, be skillful and strong. 
  • What does it mean to create the space? It means to make room to pass or shoot for goal.
  • Could this phrase link to anything outside of football? It could link to the idea of freedom and having space to be yourself.
  • What type of verb is used in the third line? Modal verb showing certainty - can
  • Why does the singer use this? To give the person listening belief they can achieve their goal.
  • What is significant about the last line of the first verse? It means never give up, even if you are losing. 
  • What does the word 'beat' mean? How is the singer using it here? To run past the opponent.
  • What does 'take him on' mean in football? To use skill or speed to get past the opposition.
  • What is similar about the third lines in both verses? They are both strong certain statements to never give up.
  • In football, what does it mean by 'one on one'? It means it is one player against another player. This is usually a striker bearing down on goal and only has the keeper to beat. 
  • Now ask the children to consider that this song has nothing to do with football and read back the lyrics. What sort of message is the singer trying to express? Use your skills to be the person you want, you can achieve your dreams if you never give up. The idea of 'the man' can just symbolise the obstacle you need to overcome to achieve your dreams. Keep working hard and never give up and sometimes the hardest person to beat if your own belief in yourself.

Express yourself
It's one on one
Express yourself
It's one on one
Express yourself
You can't be wrong
When somethings good
Its never gone

Loves got the world in motion
And I know what we can do
Loves got the world in motion
And I can't believe its true

  • Why does the singer repeat the line 'Express yourself, its one on one'? To emphasise that the biggest obstacle for most people achieving their dreams is their own self belief.
  • Why does the singer think you can't be wrong if you do express yourself? If you show the best of your ability, whether you win or lose, you know you've done your absolute best. The next lyrics also show that if its something you enjoy doing too, you'll always remember it fondly. 
  • What does the line 'Loves got the World in Motion' mean? This is open to interpretation. For me, in footballing terms, people love the game and so that love for football brings people together. The idea of World in Motion is everyone is moving together, celebrating, singing, coming together and uniting through the beautiful game. This lyric can also be taken beyond football in that the idea of love is what brings the world together, love and compassionate towards each other is what makes the world go round.


Now is the time
Let everyone see
You never give up
that's how it should be
Don't get caught
Make your own play
Express yourself
Don't give it away


  • When is the time? Now
  • Why is now the time? Children may say because it is the World Cup, however linking beyond football, you could discuss how to achieve your dreams in anything it starts today. 
  • Why should you let everyone see? Let everyone see you express yourself, show your talent but also allowing people to support and help you in your journey. 
  • What does the singer mean by 'don't get caught'? In footballing terms, it means don't get tackled. 
  • What does it mean by 'make your own play'? Be creative, make your own decisions. 
  • Again, once you have discussed these lyrics in terms of football, go back through and consider a bigger meaning in terms of achieving your goals in life. Starting now will only allow you to begin on your journey. Let other help and support you so you don't give up on your dream, don't get caught out by other's opinion and self doubt and make your own decisions.

Express yourself
It's one on one
Express yourself
It's one on one
Express yourself
You can't be wrong
When somethings good
It's never wrong

Loves got the world in motion
And I know what we can do
Loves got the world in motion
And I can't believe its true

Loves got the world in motion
And I know what we can do
Loves got the world in motion
And I can't believe its true

You've got to hold and give
But do it at the right time
You can be slow or fast
But you must get to the line
They'll always hit you and hurt you
Defend and attack
there's only one way to beat them
Get round the back
Catch me if you can
'cause' I'm the England man
And what you're looking at
Is the master plan
We ain't no hooligans
This ain't a football song
Three lions on my chest
I know we can't go wrong


  • Again with the rap, consider how the lyrics link to football and ask the children to explain what they mean: hold and give - dribble and pass. Get to the line - finish line etc. But then also consider the bigger message in terms of achieving your dreams.
  • Why does he say you can be slow or fast? People go on different journeys and take different paths but as long as they get to their desired destination, it is ok.
  • Who are they in 5th line? In football, it will be the opposition, but in life, it will be people who put you down out of jealousy to stop you from achieving your goals. 
  • What does the word hooligan mean? Why may he have mentioned it? At the time of the song, football in England had a problem with violence at football. This was a way of showing how the beautiful game should bring us together.
  • Even though, this is clearly a football song, why does the rapper use the line 'This ain't a football song?' It links to the themes we have discussed about the attitude to achieving your goals even if they aren't football related. ]
  • What does it mean by 'Three Lions on my chest'? Three lions is the crest of the England football team, so by wearing the England football kit it gives him the belief to express himself. 

We're playing for England {In-ger-land}
We're playing the song
We're singing for England {In-ger-land}
Arrivederci its one one one

We're playing for England {In-ger-land}
We're playing the song
We're singing for England {In-ger-land}
Arrivederci its one one one

We're playing for England {In-ger-land}
We're playing the song
We're singing for England {In-ger-land}
Arrivederci its one one one

We're playing for England {In-ger-land}
We're playing the song
We're singing for England {In-ger-land}
Arrivederci its one one one


  • Looking at the lyrics, which word seems unfamiliar? Arrivederci
  • What do you think this word means? Until we meet again
  • Do you know where it is from? Italy
  • Why has the singer included it? The song was written for the 1990 World Cup which was hosted in Italy.



Three Lions - Lightning Seeds




Here are the lyrics and some suggested questions:

I think it's bad news for the English game)
(we're not creative enough)
(we're not positive enough)


It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home (we'll go on getting bad results)
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home


  • Who says the first line and those in brackets? They are made by pundits who are people, usually ex-players, who give their opinion about the game.
  • Why is this included in the song? To show how pessimistic they are about England.
  • Why do they sing about football coming home? Football was first codified in England in 1863. The official slogan for Euro 96, the first European Championship to be held in England, was “football comes home.” England won the only previous championship that they’d hosted, the 1966 World Cup. Combined with the ability of players like Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer and a strong performance in the 1990 World Cup, there was genuine optimism among many fans that England would win. Not only would football be coming home, but so would the trophy.

Everyone seems to know the score, 
they've seen it all before
They just know, they're so sure
That England's gonna, 
throw it away, 
gonna blow it away
But I know they can play
'cos I remember


  • Take the first line, what do they mean by the score? The score is the results of the match, but here it is used to sum up how 'badly' England will play. 
  • Why might they all feel pessimistic about England? The song states they've seen it all before. By 1996, England had failed to win the last 14 major championships and had failed to even qualify for the 1994 World Cup. They were perennial underachievers, assembling good sides but consistently failing to reach their potential, and frequently losing on penalties. For every optimist like the singers, someone else (like the pundits are the start) would think they didn’t stand a chance. This makes the song much more endearing. It isn’t blindly patriotic, it doesn’t paint a picture of an England side entitled to win, but instead of plucky underdogs capable of triumphing against expectations.
  • What line shows the singers still believe in the team? But I know they can play. 
  • Why use the word 'but'? It is a contrasting conjunction, they are changing their view from everyone else. 


Three lions on a shirt
Jules Remet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming

  • What are 'Three Lions on a shirt'? This links to the England badge as seen here. 
  • What is Jules Remet? The Jules Rimet trophy was the original World Cup, named after the FIFA President who established the tournament. England won it in 1966. When Brazil won the World Cup for the third time in 1970, they were awarded the Jules Rimet permanently and a new trophy was commissioned.
  • Why do they describe the trophy as still gleaming? The word gleaming means it shines brightly, so this shows how proud we are to win have won the trophy but also how the memory of the win is still clear to everyone, making us want to repeat it. 
  • When was this song written? If England won the World Cup in 1966, and the song says 30 years of hurt, it would be 1996.
  • What are they dreaming of? Winning again.


So many jokes, so many sneers
But all those 'oh so near's
Wear you down, 
through the years
But I still see that tackle by Moore
And when Lineker scored, 
Bobby belting the ball
And Nobby dancing


  • What do you think the word sneer means? Are there any clues in the lyrics to help? A sneer means a mocking gesture or comment.
  • What might be the jokes and sneers? People mocking how bad England are in tournaments.
  • What are 'oh so near's'? The occasions where England nearly won it again. Here you can talk about incidents in previous tournaments where England have been dealt some bad luck - Hand of God, or 1990 semi-final. 
  • How do these sneers make the singers feel? They feel down and sceptical. They start to believe it themselves.
  • How do you know? They say 'wear you down' which means to persistently diminish their hope and belief in the team. 
  • Who is Moore? Bobby Moore was the Captain of England in 1966, the lyric links to the memorable tackle he did against Brazil in 1970, which you can watch below:

  • What position did Lineker play? How do you know? He was a striker, hopefully, the children will infer this from the fact he scored. 
  • Who is Bobby? What might he have been remembered for? Bobby Charlton was a member of the World Cup winning team and once known for his long-range ferocious shots. 
  • Why has the singer chosen the verb belting? It is alliterative, but belting was a form of punishment and was something done with a lot of force, so almost exaggerates how hard he would hit it. 
  • Who was Nobby? Nobby Styles was another member of the 1966 winning team and celebrated the win with a dance, you can see below:

  • Why does the singer make reference to these old players? To try and inspire the current team by reminding them of the heroes and legends before them. We all grow up with people we idolise and many find determination in wanting to be like them.
  • Who are your heroes? Do they have to be footballers? How do they inspire you?
Three lions on a shirt
Jules Remet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming

(England have done it, in the last minute of extra time)
(what a save, what now)
(good old England, England that couldn't play football)
(England have got it in the bag)

I know that was then, but it could be again

It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home
(England have done it)
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home
It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming
Footballs coming home 
Three lions on a shirt
Jules Remet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming
Three lions on a shirt
Jules Remet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming
Three lions on a shirt
Jules Remet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming


You may want to discuss how successful this song was during the Euro 96 tournament and how well England did in the tournament, it was the closest we had come reaching the semi-finals.

  • In what ways did you think the song helped with this?

As an evaluation task, you can ask the children to compare and contrast the two songs and discuss which they preferred and why. 

You may then want to look at other World Cup songs and deconstruct them in the same way, here are a couple of suggestions:








I decided to take the idea from the Three Lions video, to recreate some iconic moments from the World Cup in school this week. The pupils loved it! Please give their video a watch and comment as they did such a brilliant job:





Why not ask your pupils to create and write their own England song?

This video, which is not appropriate to show your children, shows how simple it is to create a chart-topping pop song. This was shared by Adam Chase (@_geekyteacher) at the Animate2Educate conference last week with a summary of what he found:




A few years back we did a similar project but just wrote our own England songs to the melodies of popular songs at the time. This is an idea featured in my 15 iPad lessons for the World Cup eBook, here are some of their examples:






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