Bend it like…Riquelme?

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated
                                                                                               
A free kick in and around the 18-yard box can be taken many different ways.  One of the approaches is a curving shot over the wall or around the wall.  When this technique comes to mind, many immediately think to Beckham – and rightfully so.  What many people seem to forget is that there are magical free kick takers all around the world who are just as talented as Beckham.  One of those masters is the superstar Juan Riquelme of Argentina.  Riquelme has scored free-kicks that rank among the greatest of all time. 

 Here are just couple of his goals.

Like anything, Riquelme’s free kick can be broken down, dissected and learned.  There are five crucial tips to consider while learning to bend it like Riquelme:

1)      Once the ball has been placed and the wall has been created, take 3-4 steps back from the ball and no more.  This is initially uncomfortable as most people like taking a good run at the ball.  It is important to realize that the fewer steps you take the greater your chance of accurately landing your planting foot and precisely hitting the ball where it needs to be hit.  If your planting foot does not land in the proper position, your entire shot will be thrown off.  If it is too far back from the ball, you are likely to aim for the airplanes; if it is too far ahead of the ball, you are likely to hit it along the ground.  Make sure to have a decent angle created between yourself, the ball and the net so that you can craft the curving effect.

2)      Prior to taking your shot you must decide whether you are going to go over the wall or around the wall.  Once you have made that decision, concentrate on visualizing your goal accordingly.  The reason you want to make this distinction is because those are two very different shots that require different approaches and techniques.  Going around the wall will require a greater curve of the ball – you will have to hit the ball much flatter with more pace.  Going over the wall will require hit the bottom portion of the ball for more air and less pace.

3)      As you approach the ball and plant your supporting foot, make sure to have it directly beside the ball and as close as possible.  What this does is eliminate the possibility of your right foot’s wind up to sway and fluctuate.  Again, this is initially very uncomfortable and tough to learn but absolutely essential for technique and accuracy.  Whether going over the wall or around the wall, the planting foot does not change positions.

4)      Do not hit the ball with your instep – a.k.a the laces of your shoe.  You are to use the inside of your foot entirely.  If curing around the wall, hit the middle/lower section of the ball and slice through the ball as if you are aiming 5-6 meters away from your actual target.  What this does is create a curving effect that can help the ball get around a wall and away from a goalie or post.  If aiming to go over the wall, use the inside of your foot once again, but hit the lower section of the ball taking off a little pace but maintaining curve.  This will help the ball get over the net and under the bar before the goalie can get there.

5)      The closer you are to the net, the less power you should be putting into your shot.  Hitting the ball harder makes it very difficult to keep down, but most importantly, the curve effect is decreased significantly.  As opposed to cuvring, your shot will have a straight flight. The ball should be hit firmly, but the emphasis should not be on the velocity of the ball, rather on the curve and placement of the ball.

For more tips on on free kicks learn from the master Riquelme himself:

Practice this shot from different angles around the box multiple times.  The more you practice the better you will become.  Make sure to take your time when learning proper technique of this shot.  Although initially frustrating, if you do not have proper technique your shot will never fully develop.  As you get better, try adding a slightly more power and curve to your shot.

What tips have worked best for you?

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