Best Free-Kick Goals This Season
Although the 2013/14 season is just over two months old, we have already seen our fair share of spectacular goals. And some of the very best in league football and on international duty have come from dead-ball situations.
To score a great free-kick, a player needs precision, power, skill and no lack of inventiveness if they wish to elude the goalkeeper's grasp. The very best kicks will be rewarded with endless replays and homages in a celebration of one of football's most delicate arts.
We bring you here five of the very best set pieces this season from across the world of football.
Neymar vs. South Korea
Brazilian forward Neymar is one of the most outstanding all-round talents to have emerged in the last five years. The former Santos star is proving his worth with what appears to be an almost seamless transition to European football, dealing with no less a challenge than fitting in at Catalan giants Barcelona.
Neymar helped announce himself to his new club with this gem in September scored while on international duty. From around 30 metres out, the youngster fired a curling effort with incredible accuracy into the bottom left corner, beating the South Korea keeper with ease and sending the Selecao on the road to victory.
Messi vs. Ajax
Neymar has clearly been paying close attention to his team-mates during Barcelona training. Blaugrana wizard Lionel Messi came up with this masterpiece during a recent Champions League tie against Ajax that his side would go on to win comfortably.
Lining up just outside the area, the Argentine had Kenneth Vermeer watching him attentively in goal, waiting for something special. But the keeper was powerless to stop Messi's rasping shot, which smashed off the post before nestling in the back of the net.
Rooney vs. Crystal Palace
A difficult, rumour-filled preseason period for Wayne Rooney has passed over into a tough start to the Premier League for Manchester United. A few inevitable teething problems following the succession of David Moyes as manager has meant the title-holders have dropped more points in the early stages of 2013/14 than they are used to.
With talents like the ex-Everton man in the team, however, one must believe that the blip is temporary. Rooney demonstrated his class with a fantastic looping effort that caught out Crystal Palace's Julian Speroni, curling the ball in from wide on the left to send out a message to Premier League rivals.
Ceni vs. Vitoria
Sao Paulo legend Rogerio Ceni, the highest-scoring goalkeeper in football history, is still the master when it comes to free-kicks. Even at 40, the veteran is still smashing them in at the highest level in Brazil.
Ceni's effort against Vitoria could not save the Tricolor from defeat; two goals from Maxi Biancucchi (Lionel Messi's cousin) saw to that. But that takes nothing away from the goalkeeper's latest masterpiece: a curling, skidding effort that crept in at the right-hand post and almost helped Sao Paulo rescue something from the clash.
Fring vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf II
The best moments in football do not necessarily have to originate in its most famous leagues. Indeed, this gem from Rotweis Essen's draw against Fortuna Dusseldorf II in the German Regionalliga West shows that great goals can come from the unlikeliest of sources.
Essen quickly became a YouTube sensation with this delightfully complicated training-ground move that somehow worked perfectly.
Six players stood round the ball, and four of those pretended that they would be taking the kick. With the defence and goalkeeper confused and bemused, Konstantin Fring stepped up to go viral with a left-footed effort that was excellent on its own merit.
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