This instructable will teach you how to determine what technique to use depending on the placement of a free kick. Then, we will cover two different types of free-kicks and how to perform them step-by-step.
Step 1: Materials and Warm-up
Goal to practice on
This part is very self-explanatory, in order to practice you need a pumped up soccer ball, cleats, and a goal to practice shooting on.
One of the most overlooked and important aspects of training is the warm-up. It is even more important when practicing free kicks as the movements are very quick. If you are not properly warmed up, then you will be risking serious injury.
Step 2: Determining Which Technique to Use
This very quickly becomes your own personal preference. The guideline I will provide is as follows: If the ball is in-line with a goalpost, or inside the frame of the goal then use the ‘knuckleball’ technique. If the ball is past either of the goalposts, then use the curved technique. The reasoning behind is as follows, the knuckleball technique gives the ball a mainly straight flight trajectory without any spin. If you were to attempt this from a large angle, there would not be much goal-area to aim for. On the other hand, when the ball is it at a large angle from the goal (past either goalpost), the curved technique allows you to bend the ball into smaller spaces in the goal frame.
But, as I said in the first sentence, after some time you will develop your own personal preferences for which technique to use. From now on, Each step will be divided as 1a and 1b depending on which technique we are using.
Step 3: Stance for Bending Technique
In order to create the body shape we want and the body shape that is necessary to bend the ball, you will want to take 3 steps back directly from the ball to the sideline, then take one step towards midfield. Starting out in this shape will allow us to follow-through and connect with the ball properly, in order to give it the bend we want.
Step 4: Stance for Knuckleball Technique
For the knuckleball technique, you will want to stand right behind the ball and face the goal. From there, you will take 3 steps back and one step to the left or right depending on your kicking foot. This is done in order to create a body shape which will allow us to strike straight and through the ball. The key to creating the knuckleball effect is a clean, straight strike.
Step 5: Bending Technique Support Foot Placement
This is an area which I stray slightly from the commonly taught technique. Instead of placing your supporting foot right next to the ball, I prefer to place the foot slightly behind the ball. This is done in order to connect with the ball at a slightly later point on the follow through. Doing this will hopefully keep your free kicks from blasting high, and giving them the dip required to get above a wall and underneath the crossbar.
Step 6: Knuckleball Support Foot Placement
Here the two techniques don’t differ too much. Similar to the above, the foot will be places to the slight and also slightly behind the ball. Once again this is done to minimize the risk of hitting a free-kick too high. If you make contact with the ball at a later point in the follow through, there is less risk of scooping the ball too high.
Step 7: Strike and Follow-through for Bend
Arguably the most important part of the kick is the strike and follow through. In order to create the bend we want to see in our free-kick we have to understand what causes the bend. When a ball spins from one side to another, the spin creates a difference in pressure which moves the ball towards the direction of spin. So to achieve the bend, we must create spin. In order to create this spin, when we strike the ball we will use the inside of our foot to make contact. Then, we will continue moving the foot across and through the ball, creating spin and generating power for the free-kick. Finally, we want to follow-through and finish with our foot high. Finishing with our foot high should maximize the chance of putting ‘downspin’ on the ball as well, which will help with keeping the ball from flying over the crossbar.
You should also keep your torso leaning over the ball and slightly forward, this will also help keep the ball from being kicked too high. If you lean back, the natural movement will raise the ball in the air and go over.
As for the location of contact with the shoe, and the direction of kicking the picture below gives some information. The part of the shoe which is in the red circle should be the area which makes contact with the ball. After making contact, the foot should follow through in the direction of the arrow (relative to the shoe). This is moving your foot across the ball, to generate spin, and through the ball as well to generate power.
Step 8: Knuckleball Strike and Follow-through
In order to explain why and how we strike a soccer ball to create the knuckleball effect, we must understand why the knuckleball effect happens. The physics is a bit more complicated behind the knuckleball effect, so the simple shortened version is that when you hit a smooth sphere without any spin, the change in drag forces across the ball causes random deviations (zigzagging) in unpredictable directions. So, for our knuckleball we must hit the ball with minimum spin (the exact opposite of the bending free kick). When you approach the ball you should do a few quick jogs. To hit a knuckleball you need to quickly “snap” as you kick, and this approach should flow better with a quick movement. Also you should lean slightly over the ball to prevent hitting the free kick high. Next, flex your toes down and point them at the ground. Finally, strike through the ball and hold your follow-through short. Not fully following through minimizes the chances of accidentally generating spin, so that the knuckleball effect can take place.
Below the diagram will show what area to kick with, and in which direction to follow-through. As opposed to the bending free-kick, here you attempt to make contact with the ball with the top of your foot. You want as flat of a contact spot as possible, and the freedom to hit the ball completely straight forward so this spot is best. The arrow shows that you should follow through straight forward (relative to the shoe). This should create the knuckleball effect.