We have all seen David Beckham’s notorious bend on the ball but how does he do it? What seems impossible to do is actually an attainable skill.

When placing the ball, make sure it sits high on the grass or turf. If you watch professional players, they usually toss the ball into place with a little backspin. This both facilitates a quick restart of play and leaves the ball in a high position so that you can strike the lower hemisphere of the ball cleanly.

The key to bending the ball is how you strike the ball. Depending on the kind of lift you want on the ball, it should be struck somewhere on the lower hemisphere. In order to get the ball spinning, you should strike the ball slightly off centre with a lot of force.

The follow through is almost as important as the strike itself. Although you should strike the ball slightly off centre, the follow through on the kick should carry your leg straight through (and well past) the ball. Good form for a free kick is similar to that of a strong strike on goal: toes pointed, knee and head over the ball. The difference for a bending ball is that it should be played slightly to the side of your laces (instead of straight on for a low driven shot). The side you use depends on whether you use the outside or inside of your foot as well as where you want the ball to bend. For example, if you are right footed and you strike the ball with the outside of your foot, the ball will bend to the left.

It is important to remember that the ball must be hit with a lot of force. What makes a ball spin is its forward velocity as well as the speed of its revolution. With practice, you will be able to gauge how much you should bend the ball and how to position your free kick so that it curls past the defenders and meets an attacking head or foot. A bent ball is also very deceiving for goal keepers, because it can start to go wide and then head straight for the corner.

One comment

  1. Lantern

    Hi, interesting topic!

    My only contention is with your assertion that the form for a free kick is the same as that for a normal shot.

    1. In a normal shot you want to keep your head over the ball to keep it low and flat, but in a free kick you actually want to get lift on the ball to get it over the wall, so your body shape is more similar to that of taking a corner ie. leaning back. If you watch Beckham’s free kicks he’s usually leaning so far back he’s almost falling over (and therefore has to put his right hand way out to balance himself).

    2. In a normal shot you approach the ball straight on, but in a free kick you want to approach the ball at an angle to create greater potential for spin. Your follow through is also different — if you are putting sidespin on the ball you need to aim wide of your target, so your follow through is often away from your target (as opposed to a conventional shot on goal where you normally follow-through at your target), and in extreme cases (Roberto Carlos etc.) your follow through can be in the direction of the corner flag!

    3. You also want a high follow through as you are trying to impart both sidespin AND backspin to get the ball to not only move side-to-side but also to drop quickly enough to drop under the crossbar.

    Ultimately though, there is no ‘one way’ of taking free kicks — Cristiano Ronaldo depends largely on backspin and power (same as Keisuke Honda’s), Mario Basler’s free kicks depended on timing and trickery and are placed low and around the wall, Alan Shearer used to just blast his right through the wall, and your Zolas and Beckhams rely on a bend and placement. Many good free kick takers I’ve coached over the years had different styles (within the bounds of a few key principles). The key seems to be to find your natural consistent free-kick style and to practice it until it becomes second nature.

    All the best!

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