Driven with ferocious power, or curled with accuracy and finesse, a free-kick goal is a beautiful thing. A talented dead-ball specialist is a valuable asset for any side. And in this installment of Icons' Five of the Best series, we bring you five unforgettable strikes from some of the best free-kick takers in the business.
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Is this the best free-kick of all time? Football fans and scientists alike gawped in disbelief at this mind-boggling ‘banana’ free-kick from Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos in 1997. Up against hosts France in international friendly tournament Tournoi de France, Roberto Carlos’ blistering 40-yarder looked to be heading well wide before a remarkable change in trajectory sent the ball curving inside the post past a static Fabian Barthez. Dismissed by cynics as a fluke, in 2010 a team of French scientists developed an equation proving that the flight of the ball was no accident. Take that, cynics!
Is this the best free-kick of all time? David Beckham is a name synonymous with the art of free-kick taking. And this unforgettable effort for England merits inclusion on context alone. And also because we’re English, and therefore biased. Three minutes into stoppage time and trailing 1-2 in this crucial World Cup qualifier against Greece, England desperately need a goal to secure qualification to the 2002 finals. Teddy Sheringham wins the free kick, and Beckham does the rest. “Give that man a knighthood!” bellows the commentator, as Old Trafford erupts.
José Manuel Rey
Is this the best fr-… Ok, you get the point. José Manuel Rey is definitely not a name synonymous with the art of free-kick taking. In fact, you've probably never heard of him. FYI, Rey is a Venezuelan international defender who once played for Dundee (Thanks, Wikipedia), and here he is with an absolute thunderbolt from 45 yards in a World Cup qualifier against Ecuador in 2007. While many go for finesse from a set-piece, Rey takes a rather different approach, with a run-up that starts inside his own half. The South American commentary team enjoy it in typically restrained fashion.
Love him or loathe him (we opt for the former), Icon Cristiano Ronaldo sure knows how to hit a free-kick. Here’s his trademark best for Manchester United against Portsmouth in 2008. Ever the showman, the Portuguese carefully positions the ball 30 yards from goal, takes four measured steps backwards, ignores some advice from Wayne Rooney, exhales with legs splayed, and finally smashes a rasping, dipping missile of a free-kick into David James’ top corner. Before being mobbed by his elated teammates, the Eric Cantona-esque celebration isn't bad either.
Never mind Roberto Carlos, Zico or Ronaldinho, the ultimate Brazilian free-kick master is former Lyon midfielder Juninho Pernambucano. Is this swerving effort in a Champions League clash against Barcelona deliberate? You bet it is. But if you need convincing, here’s proof that it wasn’t his first from such an acute angle. Indeed, Juninho, now 37, can score from pretty much anywhere, as shown by this spectacular recent effort for Brazilian side Vasco de Gama.
See more from our Five of the Best series:
Five of the Best: Penalties
Five of the Best: Goalie Goals
Five of the Best: Penalty Blunders
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