This might be a little niche, but the wide free-kick in football is actually one of the most dangerous weapons.
Delivery can take different forms, from the flatter cross, whipped assist to the back post or even low and direct across the deck.
It’s a set-piece usually reserved for your midfield creator and so we’ve taken a look at five of the best from Europe’s top-five leagues.
Kroos has arguably the most consistent delivery into the box. Right or left side, he aims for the towering defenders Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, and does so by wrapping his foot around the ball to swing in deadball crosses with pace. He recently assisted Varane with a beauty at Villarreal, finding the Frenchman at the back post with perfect precision. He should actually have more assists were it not for Real’s profligacy.
No surprise to see Borussia Dortmund’s mercurial skipper make the list. He’s at the heart of Dortmund’s production line and the Germany international has enjoyed a stellar campaign, creating six goals, one of them a fine free-kick in their win over Schalke back in December. The set-piece was actually deep and wide to the left touchline, but he caressed the ball to the front post and Thomas Delaney headed in. Reus’ technique is always crisp and the connection invariably clean.
Eriksen is a genuine specialist. He’s assisted two Premier League goals this season with a free-kick and one in particular stands out. Remember Eric Dier’s passionate celebration at the Emirates to equalise against Arsenal? It arrived after he gently flicked Eriksen’s curled set-piece from the left to the near post, the pace of it meaning Dier only needed to glance his header home. Eriksen is a menace from wide positions and the way he places the ball in between the line of defence and goalkeeper makes his free-kicks so difficult to clear.
Anywhere within a 10-20m radius outside the box and Pjanic is lethal. He doesn’t really use a lot of backlift or pace with his delivery, but rather opts to clip and chip balls into the box. Naturally, one of the beneficiaries of his quality is Cristiano Ronaldo. He opened the scoring against SPAL in November after Pjanic lofted the ball from the right and without needing to break stride from the left-side of the box, the Portuguese smashed a half-volley into the opposite corner.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE
The Belgian has endured an injury-hit campaign and so the opportunities to unleash his dangerous wide free-kicks have been too few. However, you cannot deny the calibre of his set-pieces. He’s almost unmatched as far as the Premier League is concerned because of his variety. Floated, fizzed or bent into the box, De Bruyne is pinpoint accurate, something we routinely come to expect from him.
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