Breaking Down The Free Kick

Breaking Down The Free Kick

There are several ways to take free kicks in soccer and learning the different techniques can help you maximize your scoring opportunities. Free kick specialists like Gareth Bale, Alexis Sanchez, and Christian Eriksen are known for their incredible ability from the set piece. However, there's a large misconception today within youth soccer that revolves around the idea that free kicks, whenever possible, must be put on net.

The free kick can serve as an unhindered opportunity for service into the box. In fact, many of the world's best free kickers don't even shoot the ball. Of course, it all depends on the situation and the players a team can deploy -- but, simply put, free kicks give teams an opportunity to create something truly special.

Before any free kick is taken, there is one, all-important question to answer: Is this an opportunity to take a shot on net? Or, is this an situation that would be better served with a pass? 

Scenarios To Consider 

  • Distance from goal
  • Angle from goal
  • How many offensive players are in the box?
  • How many players are in the defensive wall?
  • Do you have a particularly tall aerial threat in the mix? (Olivier Giroud, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andy Carroll, etc)
  • What are the opposing team's weaknesses?

If the opposing defense's backs are smaller, it may be wise to pass instead of shoot. But, conversely, if the opposing keeper struggles to see around his wall on free kicks, it may be an ideal shooting opportunity. Once the team has selected on shooting or passing, they then must decide who actually gets to take it. In some cases, the team's best shooter from distance may not be the player that provides the best service.

For example, Chelsea's best passer is probably Cesc Fabregas. But if the situation calls for a shot on target, Chelsea may want to look at Oscar as the kick taker. Although Fabregas is a perfectly capable shooter, Oscar excels in free kick situations and often puts the keeper in immediate duress.

On the other hand, Tottenham Hotspurs' best passer and shooter is, without question, Christian Eriksen. Putting him behind the ball can be particularly dangerous as teams must guess what he's going to do. For teams that do have multiple kinds of specialists, like with Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla's shooting skills and Mesut Ozil's ability to pass, they might place two or three players around the ball in order to further confuse the defense.

A Shooter Must... 

  • Be able to clear the wall
  • Be able to shoot over the defense and keeper without skying the ball
  • Be able to get power behind the shot
  • Be able to use spin and curve to his advantage
  • Be able to place the ball wherever he likes

From a decent distance, a simple shot will not beat a good keeper. In most cases, the ball must be struck with curve to get around the wall and with enough power to beat the keeper. And, as an added difficulty bonus, it must be placed in a spot the keeper can't get to, most usually in the upper nineties of the net. Sounds easy, right?

A Passer Must... 

  • Be able to clear the wall
  • Be able to cross the ball over the defense
  • Be able to get power behind the pass
  • Be able to use spin and curve to his advantage
  • Be able to place the ball wherever he likes

Now, if you're thinking, hey, those are exactly the same! You'd be correct! However, somehow, the abilities call for completely different approaches. When providing service on a free kick, the ball must be whipped in and a soft, flighted ball will almost always be won by the defense. Additionally, it must be placed on an absolute platter. Again, the defenders are only worried about clearance. For them, the ball can go anywhere except for the back of the net. For offensive players, they're aiming for a tiny spot and trying to beat the keeper too, so passes must be extremely accurate.

(Related: Read about becoming a free kick specialist here.)

Huddle Up

A player who is a good shooter on free kicks may not be the best passer and vice versa, so make sure your team is taking advantage of the unique opportunity. It can change the course of a game in a heartbeat so it's important not to waste them. But if you desire to be a free kick specialist, make it happen -- don't wait for somebody else to take your desired spot!

If you still find yourself struggling, consider booking one of CoachUp's private coaches to give you some guidance. Our experts can help you learn to put spin on the ball, put it anywhere you want, and will help you start scoring goals in no time -- so what are you waiting for? 

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