Introduction: How to Take a Free Kick
In this Instructable, I will be going over all the basic techniques used by professionals in order to take perfect free kicks. I will go in chronological order as one would take the free kick. The first step is the run up. This is vital to getting the timing, as well as the power in order to create a great shot. Next, the ball contact area will be discussed, in order to create the flight path, as well as the curve on the ball. Along with the ball contact area, the foot contact area will also be mentioned, displaying the two different styles capable of producing power and curve. Last but not least, I will describe the follow through to create the best results possible. All of these techniques will take many hours of practice to master, so do not expect to be an expert the first kicking session. Practice makes perfect.
Step 1: RUN-UP
The run-up is a vital step in taking a free kick. There are numerous variations that may be used, depending on what is most comfortable for the free-kick taker. The method that I will be using is a longer run up that allows the kicker to get comfortable on his feet before taking the shot. Here, I will generally step back about 5-6 steps and sideways 1-2. Another method would be to stand at a ninety degree angle to the ball, about 2-3 steps away (this technique is utilized by the likes of Lionel Messi). After getting in a starting position, the kicker will then run up to the ball on his toes and plant his non-kicking foot directly beside the ball, roughly aimed at ones target, if not a little to the side of the target to allow for a greater range of motion. The distance from the plant foot to the ball may differ between people, but I like to have about a 3-5 inch gap.
Step 2: BALL CONTACT
This is one of the most crucial parts of taking a free kick, because the contact area on the ball will determine the flight path of the ball after impact. I try to hit the ball below the mid line and slightly to the side I am taking the free kick on. For example, If I am right footed, I will run up from the left and kick the ball low and on the left side of the ball (as shown in the image). This will create the sideways spin we are looking for in order to bend the ball around defenders. If the ball is hit too low, backspin will be created, and the ball will fly over the net. Alternatively, if the ball is struck either on the midpoint or higher, the ball will get top spin, but will sputter across the ground towards the goal. Finding the perfect contact area of the ball may take time, but will be very rewarding once you are able to consistently hit great shots.
Step 3: FOOT CONTACT
The area of contact on the foot is slightly less important than the area of contact on the ball. There are two contacting areas on the foot that can be used for slightly different results. The area I most like to use is the inside of my foot, on the joint of my big toe. This method allows for more curve on the ball, but reduces the amount of power produced. The other area (used by Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, etc.) is the instep of the foot, found closer to the top of the foot near the laces. This area will create an exceptional amount of power, at the cost of spin. Either method chosen is fine, but it is beneficial to practice with both to find what suits your anatomy. In addition to the area of the foot, also try to keep your leg stiff, as well as your ankle, as this creates a stable structure for striking the ball. If the ankle is not kept stiff, you will lose power and precision, and might even hurt yourself.
Step 4: FOLLOW THROUGH
This is the last step while taking a free kick, and is vitally important. Once the foot has made contact with the ball, either on the instep or the inside of the foot, the kicker will then swing his leg up and to the side of his body in the direction which he wants the ball to curve. For example, if I am right footed, I will swing my leg up and to my left side in order to produce a shot that starts right and finishes by curling left. The up-swing of the leg also helps with producing a top spin in addition to the side spin, allowing the ball to rise quickly over defenders, and then back down into the goal.
Step 5: CONCLUSION
By now, you should have learned all the fundamentals needed to take a great free kick like Pirlo and Ronaldinho.
First, the run up may be suited to however you like, although I recommend 5-6 steps back and 1-2 to the side. On the run up remember to stay on your toes, and to plant the non kicking foot 3-5 inches from the ball in the direction you want the ball to travel. Alternatively, one may try a Messi style run up of ninety degrees to the ball, with 2-3 steps back.
Second, the ball contact area should be below the midpoint of the ball and slightly to the side you are kicking from. Make sure not to hit it too high or too low as this will create an errant shot.
Third, the foot contact area can be either of two options: the instep (up near the laces) for power or the inside of the foot (near the big toe joint) for finesse. Locking the ankle will also help produce a much more stable shot.
Fourth, follow through by sweeping the leg up and around the body, thus creating both top spin and sideways spin. REMEMBER, do not start this motion until AFTER contact.
That's everything you need to know about how to take a free kick, now get out and practice!