Having a free kick opportunity in soccer can be big for either team. Depending on the ball’s location, it can set up a goal-scoring opportunity almost instantly. In some cases, teams score directly from the free kick. However, if executed incorrectly, it could be one of the biggest blown chances of a match.
When are free kicks handed out in soccer? How exactly do they work? It’s important to know when to expect a free kick during the flow of a match as a fan or player.
What is a free kick in soccer? A free kick in soccer takes place whenever there is a foul in the open field. As long as it does not take place in the penalty box, a free kick takes place where the foul occurred. Opportunities close to the goal have a higher chance of leading to a goal, with some teams taking a shot on goal direct from the free kick.
How Does a Free Kick Work?
The setup for a free kick takes a little bit of time occasionally, while others are extremely quick if far away from the goal. It largely depends on where it is on the field. The ball has to be stationary wherever the offense occurred.
Players on the other team must stand at least 10 yards away from the ball until kicked. The person taking the free kick won’t be able to touch the ball again until at least one other player on either team touches it.
Teams don’t have to move the ball much, but it does have to move to start the action up. If a team is doing a defensive free kick, they may barely tap the ball back so that they have control.
Any player on the team can take a free kick. If it is not in a prime location, it really doesn’t matter who takes it. For goal-scoring opportunities, there might be one or two players on the team who are designated as players to take the kick.
Difference Between an Indirect and Direct Free Kick
There are two distinct types of free kicks available for teams to take. Understanding the scenarios when teams get each one will help everyone understand the game a bit better.
Direct Free Kick
A direct kick is the more important of the two, because there is a chance to score on the kick itself. A referee must make the call that it is a direct kick, which means that teams are free to try scoring from that kick itself if possible.
The ball does not have to touch anybody else first, and anything that goes into the back of the net counts.
Referees award a direct free kick automatically for intentional fouls and handballs. For example, any hard fouls, use of excessive force, handballs, or general impediment result in free kicks.
They want to keep the game as safe as possible for all involved, so that’s why they will always try to help out teams if it gets too physical.
Indirect Free Kick
With an indirect free kick, these happen much more frequently because they involve less serious infractions. Calls such as offsides, minor verbal offenses, or other small rule-breaking issues result in an indirect free kick.
Teams are not allowed to try to score with an indirect free kick, but they can set themselves up for a quick goal-scoring opportunity with the right strategy. Since indirect kicks don’t matter as much as far as the setup process is concerned, they usually happen very quickly.
If a goal is scored on an indirect free kick, the opposing team gets a goal kick. An own goal off an indirect or direct free kick results in a corner kick for the opponents.
Free Kick Strategy
Indirect free kicks don’t matter that much, but for the important ones, teams will have one or two designated takers. These players usually can score from distance, or they can set things up for a better goal-scoring opportunity. More often than not, these are two of the best players on a squad.
Teams try to use a lot of trickery during a free kick to throw off the opposition. For example, the kicking team usually has more than one player lined up behind the ball, which throws off a team trying to predict who will make contact.
To combat the offense, the defending side usually creates a wall of players standing by each other to help out the goalkeeper as much as possible.
They will be positioned in just the right way and even time up their jumps to block shots as much as possible. Kickers can sometimes avoid the wall completely by curling the ball around the players, so some positions are impossible to block entirely.
There’s a new rule that went into effect in 2019, stating that attacking players have to stay at least one yard away from the defensive wall until a ball is put in play. This is to help clean up the game a little bit before a kick is taken.
Why Free Kicks Will Always Be a Bit Confusing, Yet Important
The typical flow of a soccer game is broken up from time to time, and too much of an issue will result in free kicks. There’s a chance that dozens of free kicks happen in a typical match, and some of them might end up being crucial parts of the day.
Players and fans might not agree with every free kick call, but referees aren’t going to change their decision in the heat of the moment. Everyone wants a game called fairly, but there are bound to be a few calls here or there that are controversial.
The best teams in soccer will always have players who can capitalize off free kick situations that are ideal. Blowing too many chances will ultimately come back to bite teams if they aren’t careful. Stopping the flow of the game makes free kicks confusing occasionally, but they’re also a huge part of having success in the end.