Bartek Sylwestrzak Free kicks | Topspin freekick
Kicking is the most fundamental skill in football.
Soccer, Free kicks, Top Spin, Football, Knuckle ball, Bartek, Sylwestrzak, Bartek Sylwestrzak, Bartosz
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Topspin free kick

There are plenty of opinions on who is the best free kick taker and why that’s the case. When making this assessment, many ignore the most important and obvious criteria – goal scoring and conversion rate.


The player who has scored most goals from free kicks, 76, is Juninho Pernambucano. One of the key technical factors behind Juninho’s free kick effectiveness is the ability to apply forward spin to the ball.



Striking the ball with topspin is a rare technical skill which very few players have mastered.

Among them is Marcos Assunção, whose topspin swing matches the level of Juninho’s. Between 2010 and 2012 Assunção converted 25 set pieces for Palmeiras and scored many others at Santos, AS Roma or Betis Sevilla. Numerous dead ball specialists have since attempted to imitate the technique used by Juninho, including Andrea Pirlo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, David Luiz and Gareth Bale. Some of these players have reached a good technical level and scored spectacular free kicks, but no one has perfected the topspin swing.


However, technical abilities that made Juninho the greatest free kick taker in the game and directly contribute to goal scoring can be broken down into elements and coached. And although Juninho’s technique has rightly served as a model, it is even possible to improve aspects of it.



Quality of connection with the ball determines how effective the transfer of body power into the ball is.

Technical deficiencies prevent most players from maximising the power of their shots, decreasing the speed of the ball, limiting their shooting range and giving goalkeepers better chances for a successful save.


Maximising the quality of connection with the ball allows to produce shots with the inside of the foot at a speed exceeding 100km/h and convert from ranges longer than 40 meters.



Spin is the key technical feature of the shot because it determines the trajectory of the flight of the ball.

Most free kick takers, including Beckham, Ronaldinho or Messi, predominantly apply side spin to the ball – it swerves, but doesn’t dip. This decreases the chance of scoring by making them prone to:


1) Hit the ball over the crossbar – if the shot is lifted high or a lot of power is put into it.


2) Hit the wall – Zidane said he used to aim at the heads of players in the wall. He knew that if he lifted his inside spin curlers higher, the ball would most likely fly over the crossbar. For the same reason Sneijder aims between the heads – both methods make it probable that the free kick will be blocked.


3) Sacrifice power of the strike – inside rotation doesn’t bring the ball down and having to rely on gravity players often produce weak shots in order to hit the target, which gives the goalkeepers a greater chance of making a successful save.


Forward spin bends the trajectory of ball’s flight and creates the dip, making it possible to hit free kicks over the wall and under the bar with power.



Lifting the ball is a critical skill for a free kick taker, because it takes the ball over the wall.

For a number of technical reasons many top players find this aspect of free kick taking difficult. For example, in 2010-2011 season as many as 40 out of 78 free kicks Ronaldo took for Real Madrid were blocked by the wall and he still struggles to hit the target because of insufficient height of his shots.


The ability to lift the ball is a critical factor in achieving a high conversion rate.


Combining height of the strike with topspin not only allows the player to go over the wall, but also enables them to hit the target despite the highest point of ball’s flight being well above the crossbar. This makes a free kick very hard to save – a high flight can take the ball  beyond goalkeeper’s range until it reaches the goal and produces a trajectory that is also very deceiving – goalkeepers often don’t expect the shot to come down in time and react too late.





Contact me if you want to become a free kick specialist, improve your open play shooting, non-dominant foot performance or passing range and accuracy.




Contact me if you want to improve your understanding of ball striking and provide your players with in-depth technical guidance.

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