World Football: 11 Free Kick Masters
Line it up. Select a corner, or go for power. Upper 90, or lower shelf. Get the ball up and over the wall and make the thing dip, swerve or knuckle. These are some of the thought processes of the free kick master.
The success rate is low, no matter if the restart is right outside the penalty area or some 40+ yards away from goal. Only players who can temper supreme skill with the laws of angular physics are able to produce something that confounds the wall and keeper alike.
The pecking order of this elite group of specialists hasn't changed all that much over the last couple of years. With that in mind, we've decided to dig a bit deeper and illuminate a couple relatively unknown names alongside the ones you already know and love. The focus here is on recent memory with a couple minor exceptions.
As we enter the final countdown for the start of the major 2012-2013 European club seasons (no disrespect Ligue 1, Eredivisie and SPL fans), let's unveil 11 of the world's top set piece magicians.
In no particular order, somewhat...
The man that Arsene Wenger referred to as the "best dead-ball taker in the top flight" in 2011 has scored a few stunners in the past couple of seasons.
He's part of the less-heralded third of this list. Have a look at one of Larsson's genius strikes.
From his days at Nagoya Grampus in the J-League to his exquisite strike in the 2010 World Cup for Japan against Denmark, Mr. Honda has shown a penchant for the celestial goal.
Cheesy dance track aside, the attached clip shows a master at work.
Yes, another name you've likely not heard—unless you're a die-hard Real Betis fan.
The Spanish playmaker converted four of his 27 dead ball kicks in 2012, good enough to tie him with Cazorla and Stade Brest's Bruno Grougi for the most in Europe.
While Signore Pirlo's breathtaking strike against Croatia remains fresh in many a brain pan, here's another beauty from Il Direttore.
The look on the keeper's face could stop a rampaging elephant dead in its tracks.
Here's your chance to get to know the man they call the "Turkish Xavi." He scored three amazing free kick goals for Galatasaray in 2012.
Once again, get your YouTube mute button ready, but enjoy these two brilliant goals.
We're guessing we might see a few free kick goals from Monsieur Zlatan flying in against Ligue 1 keepers this season. This one against Cagliari in January was a work of art. Vive L'Ibra.
Could he still do this in the Barclay's Premier League, La Liga or Serie A? That we don't have an answer for, but it's a fact he's still routinely mystifying keepers at age 37.
Ask the Montreal Impact if they think the lad has still got the bottle.
You've seen the Turkish version, now feast your eyes on the original.
Sorry for being predictable, but the man is probably the second most threatening free kick taker in the world behind...
Just to show you we are balanced and fair. No one is more lethal at this level than CrisRon. For club or country, you won't find a better dead ball striker.