Take your game to the next level: Roberto Carlos on how to take free-kicks
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Learn from one of the all-time masters as the Real Madrid and Brazil great shares his set-piece tips.
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"Maximum focus, look at the wall, look at the goalkeeper, and of course you've got to have the belief that you'll score," says Roberto Carlos, running through his set-piece checklist. "The best thing in football is scoring free-kicks."
A three-time UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, the Brazilian was famous for his fierce dead-ball deliveries, with a stunning bending effort with the outside of his boot against France for Brazil in 1997 one of the left-back's crowning glories. In a new four-part series, the 48-year-old is helping the next generation of players to 'Level Up', starting with this guide to scoring from set pieces.
He describes that extraordinary effort past Les Bleus' Fabien Barthez as follows: "I placed the ball with the valve facing me because I always struck the ball with the outside of my foot, so I placed the ball that way. I took four steps back. I looked at the goal. I had a look at the wall, and I took note of the goalkeeper's positioning. Then I struck it really hard."
In the course of 128 appearances in Europe's top club competition (including qualifying), Roberto Carlos scored 17 goals, a more than respectable total for a defender. Seven of those came direct from free-kicks, with Anderlecht, Bayern, Dynamo Kyiv, Leverkusen, Olympiacos, Porto and Sporting CP all getting close-up demonstrations of his technique.
"When it came to taking free kicks, I always had the habit of hitting the hardest part of the ball, where the valve is," he explains. "For many people it's important but I had the mindset that to hit the ball hard, this part [of the ball] would help the ball move differently towards the goal. That's why I scored so many free-kicks.
"As for the steps back I took, it was so I could generate more pace to hit the ball towards goal. I think because I was so far away from the ball, I knew exactly where to aim. Being a bit further away from the ball worked for me, as it gave me more belief that I would score."
However, if he always aimed for the same part of the ball, it was the variation in how he hit it that caused opponents so many headaches. "I always hit the ball in three different ways: straight on; with the inside of my foot over the wall; but what I most liked to do – which the keeper didn't expect – was to hit it with the outside of my foot. That's more or less how I would hit it."
Roberto Carlos demonstrated his free-kick prowess with Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Fenerbahçe and Russian side Anji, before coaching clubs in Turkey and India. He has not played a professional game since 2015, but his free-kick prowess continues to be recognised, not least by the player himself.
"After Roberto Carlos, the best free-kick taker is Cristiano Ronaldo," he says. "After me!"