When it comes to football, nothing really beats seeing a free kick fly into the top corner. The tense seconds building up to the effort, the wall standing motionless, the goalkeeper gesticulating frantically as he tries to ensure he has his angles covered. Then comes the moment the attacker lets fly. If done correctly, the ball angles in towards the goal despite the best efforts of the wall, with the goalkeeper left motionless, knowing they have been beaten by an unstoppable effort.
Of course, you can always caveat this with the big build-up coupled with an effort pinging into the wall or flying into row Z. Perhaps this is what makes free kicks so exciting. The risk of missing the target by a long way is large, while the reward of seeing your effort fly into the back of the net is one you will never forget.
However, is there a time where you cannot actually score from a free kick? After all, it would make a player look rather foolish if they shot at goal and scored, only to have their effort ruled out, but why would this happen? In this guide, we will take a look at the different types of free kicks, what they are, the rules behind them and more.
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What Is a Free Kick?
The basics first. A free kick is when one team is awarded a kick of the ball without interruption from the opposition. It is a method of restarting play following an infringement from the opposing team.
What Is a Direct Free Kick?
A direct free kick is an opportunity in which the attacking team can score from. The direct free kick is the type of dead ball situation that you would see the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Roberto Carlos standing over in their time.
A direct free kick can be awarded for any of the following infringements:
- Handball (not applicable when the goalkeeper handles the ball illegally in the penalty area)
- Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
- Charges or jumps at an opponent
- Striking an opponent
- Unfairly tackling or challenging
- Biting or spitting
- Entering the field of play without the permission of the referee
There are a number of other reasons why a direct free kick may be awarded, but these are the ones that are most common in a game of football.
How Can a Team Score from a Free Kick?
Teams will often have rehearsed different techniques for free kicks. If a direct free kick is awarded in a decent position in relation to the goal, then a free kick taker will usually look to shoot at goal. A team will most likely have one or two designated free kick takers. Most of the time, there will be a left-footed player and a right-footed player available to take the effort. Depending on the placement of the free kick and the wall will dictate whether the effort favours a left or right-footed player.
From here, players will need to decide if their shot should be hit with whip and bend to try to get it up and over or around the wall and into the goal or with great power. Generally, the further from the goal the more likely the shot will be hit with power, while if the ball is closer a player will try to bend it around the wall. It is worth noting that if the ball is too close to the goal to get it up and over the wall, a player will likely look to hit the ball with a lot of power, hoping it goes through the wall and beats the goalkeeper for pace.
If the effort is at an awkward angle, the team may decide to loft the ball into the box. This will then see the attacking team trying to knock the ball into the net, while the defending team will try to clear the ball. Routines practiced on the training ground can sometimes be used for these situations, although these are usually saved for corners as the corner will only ever be taken from one side of the pitch or the other, whereas a free kick could be awarded anywhere on the field.
Can the Defending Team Block a Direct Free Kick?
Yes, they can, but there are rules they must follow. The defending team can create a wall to block the attacking team’s shot, but they have to be at least 10 yards from where the ball is placed. If they encroach on the ball, then the referee will often give a yellow card to punish the player before ordering the kick to be retaken.
As long as the wall is standing the required distance from the ball, they can try to block the shot as it is taken by jumping in the way of it. If a free kick is awarded and a player on the infringing team stands in the way and stops a quick free kick from being taken, then they will be cautioned.
Players from the attacking team were once able to stand in the wall and try to use their body to create gaps in the wall for their teammates to exploit. However, rules now state that a player on the attacking team must stand at least one yard from a wall of three of more defending players. If they fail to do this, then an indirect free kick will be awarded to the defending team.
The defending team will sometimes look to include a ‘draft-excluder’ behind the wall. This sees a player on the defending team lie behind the wall at the feet of their teammates. This player will then stay motionless as the wall jumps to try to block the free kick. This can be important as some players look to drill the free kick along the floor, taking advantage of the players jumping. The idea behind the draft excluder is that the ball will hit the player lying on the floor, stopping them from scoring.
What Is an Indirect Free Kick?
An attacking team cannot score from an indirect free kick. If a player scores from an indirect free kick, then a goal kick will be awarded to the team that has been ‘scored’ against. This means that the ball must be passed or touched by one player before another can strike the ball at goal. An indirect free kick is signaled by the referee raising one arm above their head and maintaining this signal until the ball has been kicked and is then touched by another player.
Perhaps the most well-known example of this type of free kick comes when the goalkeeper is deemed to have handled the ball illegally. This will then see one team lining up on the goal line while the other sets up an indirect free kick in the box. A player from the attacking team must then touch the ball before another player can strike it, with this touch then seeing the defending team rush off the line to try to block the ball.
An indirect free kick is generally awarded from less serious offences. These include:
- Illegal handling of the ball by the goalkeeper in the penalty area (passbacks)
- Kicking or trying to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing the ball
- Impeding an opponent without making any direct contact
- Any other verbal offences
- A player taking kick-off, a free kick, penalty, goal kick or throw in and then immediately touching the ball before another player has done so
- A penalty kick is played backward
There are a number of other reasons why an indirect free kick can be awarded, but the above reasons are more likely to happen in an average game of football. It is important to note that if the ball flies into the net from an indirect free kick, then one of two things could happen.
If the ball is kicked by the attacking team into their opponents goal from an indirect free kick, then the goal will be disallowed and the defending team will be awarded a goal kick. If the team that is taking the indirect free kick puts the ball into the back of their own net without it touching another player, then a corner kick will be awarded.
What Is a Quick Free Kick & the Advantage Rule?
A quick free kick is when a player on the side that has been given a free kick chooses to restart play as quickly as possible. To do this, the player must be on the spot where the foul was committed or very close to it, and the ball must be completely stationary. If they fail to adhere to both of these parameters, then the referee will pull the play back and force the player to take the free kick again.
Quick free kicks can be lethal in the right situation. If a free kick is awarded and the opposing team is out of position, then taking the kick quickly can catch the opposition out. It can also be deadly if the defending team has purposefully fouled a player to hold the play up, but the attacking side decide to move the ball on quickly to keep the attack going.
The quick free kick and the advantage rule are two things that help to keep the game moving quickly. The advantage rule is something that allows the referee to keep the game moving even when there has been a foul. For example, if a player has the ball and passes it into a good position for a teammate just as the player releasing the ball is fouled, the referee can play advantage to see whether anything will come of the move.
If the referee feels that there is no immediate advantage to playing on, then they can call a free kick. The advantage rule is completely up to the discretion of the referee, and they reserve the right to go back and caution a player despite letting play go on. In extreme cases, the referee will decide against utilising the advantage rule if the infringement is bad enough and needs to be dealt with immediately, such as when a red card needs to be awarded.