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The Best Free-kicks of all-time

January 25, 2018

- Grant Whittington

Let’s start with a question; who doesn’t love to see a sweetly-struck free-kick nestle in the corner of the net?

This remains one of football’s most difficult techniques to execute, as players must focus on striking the ball accurately while also navigating a carefully-constructed wall and the waiting goalkeeper.

Some players have been able to successfully master this technique, however, delivering some spectacular results throughout the years. Here’s our pick of the best and most incredible free-kicks of all-time.

  1. Oleksandr Aliyev, Ukraine U-20s vs. Turkey U-20s in 2005

We start with a largely unheralded strike, which came at the 2005 Under-20 World Cup in the Netherlands.

During a Group B encounter between the Ukraine and Turkey, midfielder Aliyev surprised everyone as he lined up a central-free kick 40 yards from the opposition goal. Rather than delivering the ball into the penalty area, he took a straight run-up before smashing the ball towards the Turkish keeper, watching with interest as it swerved slightly in the area before powering into the top corner of the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Considered to be one of the best youth tournament goals of all-time, Aliev’s stunning strike boasted power, accuracy and movement in equal measure, while it also managed to nestle in the net despite the Turkish stopper Serkan Kirintili having an uninterrupted view of the shot.

  1. David Beckham, England vs. Greece in 2002

Our next pick is one of the most famous free-kicks of all-time, while it is probably remembered as much for its importance and timing as its execution.

In a decisive qualifier for the 2002 World Cup, England were trailing Greece 2-1 at Old Trafford as the game entered the third and final minute of stoppage time. With defeat and a tricky play-off game looming against the Ukraine, striker Teddy Sheringham was fouled and the Three Lions were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from goal.

Sheringham himself initially grabbed the ball, but after wasting several set-pieces earlier in the game he was quickly overruled by captain Beckham. This proved to be the right call, as the Manchester United midfielder stepped up to curl a trademark, curling free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the net before the keeper could even move.

The execution of this strike was absolutely perfect; with the arc of the ball leaving no doubt that it would eventually result in a goal that sent England to the 2002 World Cup in Japan.

  1. Mohd Faiz Subri, Penang FA vs. Pahang FA in 2016

This staggering free-kick is surely one of the greatest goals of all-time, while it even managed to win the coveted Puskas Award for the single most spectacular strike of 2016.

Playing for Penang FA in a Malaysian Super League game, Subri stunned the expectant crowd after lining up a set-piece in the left-hand channel and around 30 yards from goal. While his powerful right-foot strike was initially dispatched over the wall and towards the top left-hand corner, it swerved spectacularly over the goalkeeper’s head before nestling in the top right-hand side of the goal.

We’ve never seen a goal quite like this, with the execution truly unique and capable of beating any goalkeeper in the world. In fact, we’re not sure that even two keepers would have kept this out, not unless they had any idea of what was to come.

  1. Roberto Carlos, Brazil vs. France in 1997

Despite carving out a reputation for stunning free-kicks, Roberto Carlos cannot be considered as a true set-piece expert.

While the vast majority of his strikes may have ended up in row Z, however, those free-kicks that were successful tended to be memorable for their explosive and unique execution.

His most famous free-kick goal came in 1997, when Brazil took on the host nation in the Tournoi de France.  This four-team tournament, which was intended as a warm-up for the 1998 World Cup, was eventually won by Glenn Hoddle’s England but is best remembered for Carlos’ stunning free set-piece.

After lining the ball up in a central area around 40 yards from goal, Carlos began his deliberate, stuttered run-up before striking the ball with the outside of his famed left foot. Incredibly, the trajectory of the ball started about 10 yards outside of the far post, before it swerved sharply and clipped the inside of the post before nestling in the net. The startled goalkeeper barely moved, while the fans inside the stadium seemed stunned that any player had managed to put so much curve on the ball.

This goal forms the foundation for Carlos’ reputation as an expert free-kick taker, and while this may be unfounded it’s hard to argue with the quality of his famous strike against the French.

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