Ranking the 15 Greatest World Cup Free-Kicks of All Time

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJune 25, 2014

Ranking the 15 Greatest World Cup Free-Kicks of All Time

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The 2014 World Cup has seen some wonderful goals, but we've been starved of free-kick strikes.

    That changed on Wednesday as Lionel Messi clipped a superb effort into the corner in Argentina's 3-2 win over Nigeria.

    To celebrate the goal, we thought we'd look back at some of the finest free-kick efforts from down the years.

    There have been powerful ones, skilful ones and intricately-planned ones.

    Here's a rundown of the 15 best free-kicks at the World Cup finals.

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree and add your own.

15. Jose Luis Chilavert (Paraguay vs. Slovenia, 2002)

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    It didn't go in, but Jose Luis Chilavert's free-kick for Paraguay against Slovenia at the 2002 World Cup was still some effort. Especially from a goalkeeper.

    His performances in Japan and South Korea helped Paraguay reach the last-16, where they lost to Germany. 

    Chilavert ended his international career in 2003 after 74 appearances and eight goals.

14. David Beckham (England vs. Ecuador, 2006)

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    David Beckham's free-kick against Ecuador sent England through to the quarter-finals of the 2006 tournament in Germany. It was also his last goal at a World Cup.

    England lost to Portugal on penalties in the quarters and Beckham resigned as captain following their exit.

13. David Platt (England vs. Belgium 1990)

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    With England's last-16 tie with Belgium at Italia '90 heading for penalties, Bobby Robson's side worked a neat free-kick routine to book a place in the quarter-finals.

    Paul Gascoigne dinked a set piece over the Belgium wall, David Platt peeled off, watched the ball drop over his shoulder and volleyed it into the net.

    England eventually reached the semi-finals, where they were beaten by West Germany.

12. Tomas Brolin (Sweden vs. Romania 1994)

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    Sweden enjoyed a successful tournament at USA '94, finishing third.

    And striker Tomas Brolin produced one of their highlights. After qualifying from a group that also included Brazil, Sweden beat Saudi Arabia in the last 16.

    There, Brolin finished a well-worked free-kick in a 2-2 draw with Romania. Sweden eventually won on penalties but were beaten in the semi-finals by Brazil.

11. Georges Bregy (Switzerland vs. USA, 1994)

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    A game of two free-kicks.

    Georges Bregy scored from a set piece as Switzerland took the lead against hosts the United States in 1994.

    But that was cancelled out by Eric Wynalda's effort as the two sides settled for a point in their opening game.

    They both went through to the second round where the USA lost to Brazil and Switzerland were beaten by Spain.

10. Javier Zanetti (Argentina vs. England, 1998)

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    David Seaman was expecting a Gabriel Batistuta thunderbolt as England played Argentina for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1998.

    But as Batistuta ran in, Juan Sebastian Veron rolled a pass into the box, where Javier Zanetti appeared from behind the wall to shoot past Seaman.

    England had been caught out by the perfectly planned routine.

9. Eric Wynalda (USA vs. Switzerland, 1994)

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    Eric Wynalda scored 34 goals in 107 games for the United States. But he saved one of his best for his home World Cup.

    He scored the United States' first goal in 1994 in their opening group game against Switzerland. The game finished in a 1-1 draw as the US made it out of the group.

    They lost to eventual winners Brazil in the last 16.

8. Dirceu (Brazil vs. Peru, 1978)

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    Dirceu scored twice against Peru in the second group stage of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

    And one was a superb left-foot free-kick from 30 yards. The midfielder ended the tournament with three goals.

    His third came in the third-place play-off tie as Brazil came from behind to beat Italy.

7. David Beckham (England vs. Colombia, 1998)

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    Picked for his first World Cup in 1998, David Beckham was left out of England's starting XI for the first two group games against Tunisia and Romania by manager Glenn Hoddle.

    But given his first start against Colombia, Beckham announced himself in style with a typical, curling free-kick to help book a date with Argentina in the second round.

    His performance in that game was memorable for entirely different reasons.

6. Robin Van Persie (Holland vs. Ivory Coast, 2006)

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    Robin van Persie's fierce free-kick helped the Netherlands beat the Ivory Coast 2-1 in the group stages during the 2006 World Cup.

    The Netherlands qualified for the knock-out rounds alongside Argentina. But not even Van Persie could prevent them going out at the hands of Portugal.

5. Jose Luis Sierra (Chile vs. Cameroon, 1998)

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    Jose Luis Sierra scored this wonderful free-kick against Cameroon in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup.

    He got his effort up and over the wall and just inside the post to give Chile the lead in the final group game.

    It was an important goal. The game finished in a 1-1 draw, guaranteeing Chile's passage into the second round where they lost 4-1 to Brazil.

4. Roberto Carlos (Brazil vs. China, 2002)

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    Some free-kicks are about precision. Some are about the pace and whip on the ball.

    But others are about belting it as hard as you can. And that's exactly what Roberto Carlos did to find the net against China in 2002.

    The fans behind the goal were lucky the net was there to stop it.

3. Bernard Genghini (France vs. Austria, 1982)

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    Bernard Genghini couldn't have stuck his free-kick against Austria during the 1982 World Cup any further into the top corner if he'd thrown it into the net.

    It was the only goal of the game as France beat Austria in the second group phase. They topped the group but lost to West Germany on penalties in the semi-finals.

2. Francisco Arce (Paraguay vs. South Africa, 2002)

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    Stood over a free-kick wide on the left, Francisco Arce had no right to shoot, let alone score.

    But that's just what he did during Paraguay's group game with South Africa in 2002. 

    It helped Paraguay earn a 2-2 draw as they qualified from their group along with Spain. They lost narrowly to Germany in the last 16.

1. Teofilo Cubillas (Peru vs. Scotland, 1978)

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    Some free-kicks are scored with the right foot. Some with the left foot.

    But very few are scored with the outside of the boot. Especially at the World Cup. 

    Three Peru players were stood over the ball during their group game with Scotland in 1978. But no one expected Teofilo Cubillas to take a couple of steps and bend his shot round the wall with the outside of his foot.

    It helped Peru win 3-1. They topped the group ahead of Scotland and the Netherlands but were knocked out in the second round.