Thursday, 20 Jun 2024

The Art of Dead Ball Brilliance

Video best free kicks of all time

The Expected Goals (xG) metric is a fascinating tool that measures the probability of a goal being scored from a specific situation in football. It assigns a rating between 0 and 1; the lower the score, the harder the chance. Interestingly, free kicks in football have an xG rating of 0.06, meaning that out of every 17 free kicks taken, only one finds the back of the net. This rarity is precisely why dead ball specialists and expert free-kick takers captivate football enthusiasts around the world.

Free kick
Lionel Messi

So let’s take a deep dive into some of the best free kicks in football history that have left us in awe.

Sinisa Mihajlovic vs Sampdoria, 1998

Sinisa Mihajlovic, one of the deadliest free-kick takers of all time, terrorized goalkeepers during dead ball situations throughout his career. In a match against Sampdoria, Mihajlovic achieved the remarkable feat of scoring a hat-trick of free kicks. However, the standout moment was his final goal. From over 30 yards out, he unleashed a powerful whipped free kick that sailed past the hapless goalkeeper, leaving the world in awe of his skill. Even Sven Goran Eriksson, former manager of both Mihajlovic and David Beckham, chose the Serbian when asked who he would pick for a free kick.

Matt Le Tissier v Wimbledon, 1994

Matt Le Tissier, renowned for his set-piece mastery, was an exceptional free-kick taker in addition to being a penalty specialist. His brilliance was on full display in a match against Wimbledon when he casually flicked up a ball from just outside the box and delivered a ferocious volley that left the goalkeeper helpless. The flick, the volley, and the placement were nothing short of perfection.

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Alvaro Recoba vs Bologna, 2003

Alvaro Recoba, known for his magical moments on the pitch, showcased his dead ball prowess in a game against Bologna. From a distance of more than 30 yards, Recoba unleashed a powerful left-footed shot with perfect curve and swerve. The ball deflected off the left post before finding the back of the net, leaving everyone in awe of his extraordinary talent.

Lionel Messi vs Liverpool, 2019

Though overshadowed by Liverpool’s incredible comeback in the same tie, Lionel Messi’s free kick against the English club was truly remarkable. In the first leg of the 2018-19 Champions League semi-final, Barcelona earned a free kick with the goal too far for a straightforward attempt. However, Messi conjured up a magical left-footed rocket that curled at the last moment, beating a full-diving goalkeeper and finding its way into the net.

Juninho Pernambucano vs Bayern Munich, 2003

Juninho Pernambucano, the master of free kicks, holds the record for scoring the most goals from dead ball situations (77). One of his best strikes came against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. With a free kick over 35 yards from the goal, Juninho unleashed a ferocious dipped shot that left even the great Oliver Kahn, the goalkeeper at the time, helpless. The goal was a testament to Juninho’s dead ball expertise.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Portsmouth, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo, known for his incredible free kicks, delivered a wonder strike against Portsmouth that stands among the best in football history. In a crucial match during the title race against Chelsea, Ronaldo stepped up and unleashed a powerful volley from 30 yards, finding the top right corner of the net with pinpoint accuracy. The goal left goalkeeper David James rooted to his spot and helped Manchester United secure three crucial points on their way to winning the title.

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Mikael Nilsson vs PSV Eindhoven, 1993

Mikael Nilsson’s free kick against PSV Eindhoven was ahead of its time and inspired many brilliant “knuckleball” free kicks. During a UEFA Champions League match in 1993, Nilsson scored a goal that had the perfect balance of speed, power, and curve. It was a classic toe poke that had never been seen before, and Nilsson can be credited with inventing the technique. The goal was a testament to his ingenuity and skill.

David Beckham vs Greece, 2001

David Beckham’s free kick against Greece is etched in football history for its significance. In a decisive World Cup qualifying match, England needed a draw to secure automatic qualification for the tournament. Trailing late in the game, Beckham stepped up and produced a perfect shot that sailed into the top corner, securing a draw and England’s place in the World Cup. This iconic moment made Beckham a legend and exemplified his dead ball brilliance.

Mohd Faiz Subri vs Pahang, 2016

In a Malaysian League match, Mohd Faiz Subri scored a free kick that defied logic and won him the FIFA Puskas Award. Taking the free kick from an extreme angle on the right side of the box, Subri managed to generate an incredible spin on the ball. The goal was an extraordinary display of skill and creativity, solidifying Subri’s place among the best free kicks in football history.

Roberto Carlos vs France, 1997

No list of the best free kicks in football history would be complete without mentioning Roberto Carlos’s iconic strike against France. From 40 yards outside the box, Roberto Carlos unleashed a powerful, curved shot with his left foot that seemed to defy the laws of physics. The goal is a testament to his incredible technique and is widely considered one of the greatest free kicks ever scored.

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Q: How is the Expected Goals (xG) metric calculated?
A: The xG metric calculates the probability of a goal being scored from a particular situation based on various factors such as shot location, angle, distance, and defensive pressure.

Q: Who holds the record for the most goals scored from free kicks?
A: Juninho Pernambucano holds the record for scoring the most goals from free kicks, with an impressive tally of 77.

Q: How are free kick specialists identified?
A: Free kick specialists are identified by their consistent ability to produce accurate and powerful shots from dead ball situations. Their goals often showcase perfect technique, precision, and creativity.


Dead ball brilliance in football is a sight to behold. The artistry, technique, and skill displayed by free kick specialists are a testament to the beauty of the game. From the likes of Sinisa Mihajlovic and Matt Le Tissier to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, these players have etched their names in the annals of football history through their unforgettable free kicks. As football enthusiasts, we are lucky to witness these moments of pure brilliance on the pitch.

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The Art of Dead Ball Brilliance