Set-piece specialists XI: The dead ball masters who score free kicks for fun
Thirteen years ago today, David Beckham provided one of the most memorable England moments of recent years with a dramatic late equaliser at Greece to send England to the 2002 World Cup.
Whipping the ball up and over the wall with minutes to spare, his goal sent Old Trafford into ecstasy and England to the far east. In homage of that moment, we’ve put together an eleven of set-piece specialists.
Expect arguments galore the moment the referee puts his whistle to his mouth in the opponent’s half with this lot on the pitch.
Goalkeeper: Rogerio Ceni
Not many players make it to 100 goals in their career. Even fewer do it from in goal. Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni is recognised by FIFA as the highest scoring goalkeeper in the history of the game, thanks to the set-piece skills that have seen the long walk from box to box become a feature of his game. Here’s his 100th goal in 2011, the 62nd from a free kick.
Right Back: Darijo Srna
Croatia right-back lines up at right back, having scored 26 times for Shakhtar and 21 times for his country over the past 12 years. He’s so prolific from a dead ball that a video of all of his Shakhtar free-kicks is over seven minutes long.
Centre-Back: Ronald Koeman
Current Southampton boss Ronald Koeman was the man for the big game. The Dutchman had a knack of scoring free-kicks at the perfect time, scoring in a hammering of Real Madrid for Barcelona, getting the winner in the 1992 Champions League final and scoring against England in 1993 to prevent Graham Taylor’s side qualifying for the 1994 World Cup.
Centre-Back: Sinisa Mihajlovic
It’s perhaps not that much of a surprise that a centre-back wearing number 11 on his back had attacking instincts, with Sinisa Mijailovic a set-piece master during his long career.
The current Sampdoria boss is Serie A’s record goalscorer from free-kicks, scoring 28 of them during his career in Italy.
Left-Back: Ian Harte
Surprisingly, left-back is one of the most hotly contested berths in this side, with Ian Harte fending off competition from the likes of Roberto Carlos and Leigton Baines to make our line up.
The former Leeds full-back possesses a lethal left-foot, reaching double figures in two seasons over his career. Here’s a snippet of his set-piece prowess, worth watching just for the reaction of the Irish fans to his strike.
Right Midfield: David Beckham
In a team of set-piece specialists David Beckham would still be near the top of most people’s lists when picking their ideal set-piece taker. Beckham had the ability to both whip the ball in from wide and to put it in the top corner from a shot. He dragged England through a number of games almost single handedly despite being surrounded by the so-called Golden Generation, no more so than against Greece in 2001.
Got seven minutes to spare? Well then sit down and treat yourself to a helping of all 75 of Juninho’s free kick goals between 1994 and 2012.
Once you’re done it’ll be pretty easy to see why so many think he’s the best of all-time.
Centre-Midfield: Andrea Pirlo
Not content with being just demonstrating the art of running the show from central midfield with his passing, Andrea Pirlo can also add free-kick master to his CV. And what a CV it is.
Left Midfield: Shunsuke Nakumura
Lots of videos so far of free kicks hitting the corner of the net, but how about the window of a bus? Former Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura scored numerous free-kicks over his career – including a memorable one at Old Trafford – but also managed to show off his ability to put the ball on a sixpence with this effort on Japanese TV.
Further Youtube browsing reveals he can also knock things off the top of wedding cakes. A handy skill. Why can’t English TV do something similar with David Beckham?
Attacking Midfield: Ronaldinho
Brazil attacker Ronaldinho is next in our side. Like Koeman, he also provided a heart-breaking moment for England by scoring the free-kick that rendered Beckham’s dramatic goal against Greece meaningless by knocking England out of the 2002 World Cup. Ably assisted by David Seaman it must be said.
Striker: Alessandro Del Piero
A cult corner regular finishes off our side, controversially keeping out Cristiano Ronaldo after much debate at Squawka HQ.
The right decision up front? This video might sway any undecided.