Free-kicks change games

In the recent World Cup free-kicks were one of the highlights of the tournament with many examples of innovation and creative play.

Kieran Trippier free kick England

Kieran Trippier scores for England in the World Cup Semi-Final

The importance of free-kicks cannot be underestimated in youth football. As a statement you may dismiss it, you may disagree with it, or you may actually agree but think that practising free-kicks is pointless. However, it’s a statement worth thinking about.

At the end of last season my U11s had been in the top three for almost the whole season. With one game to go we were three points behind the team in second place, who were also our opponents for that final fixture.

A poor performance in their penultimate game meant that their goal difference was nowhere near as good as ours, so we just needed a win to snatch second place.

It was a good game and my team played some lovely passing moves but at the interval it was still 0-0. I didn’t need to inspire my players at half-time, they did it themselves as I gave them the floor to talk about the game and how well they were playing.

Five minutes left

We scored early in the second half and the opposition looked out of it until, with five minutes remaining, they got a free-kick just outside our penalty area. We set up a wall and had players on the posts but it was a great free-kick, looping high into the top corner and miles from my keeper’s hands. I doubt even Thibaut Courtois would have got near it.

I had to admire the quality of the kick. One like that doesn’t happen without a lot of patience and a lot of practice. But then we have specialists too and on the stroke of full-time we won a free-kick ourselves, just outside the area.

It was some way out but one of my players practices kicking for both rugby and football and there was no way anyone else was taking it. He picked up the ball and lined up his shot. The well organised opposition weren’t going to make it easy for him, but he focused, took a few paces back and hit it.

A beauty of a shot

It was a beauty of a shot. Skimming the heads of the players in the wall, it beat the keeper and took the player on the line into the net with it! Then the referee blew for full-time. We had won. Had the ball been played into the box as a cross then I doubt the opposition would have given a goal away, but there was nothing they could do about that unstoppable free-kick.

So when I talk to other coaches I tell them the importance of getting players to practice kicking because you never know when you are going to need that special something to give you the edge in matches.

Practice using these two ideas:

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