Knuckleball free kick

Clean connection with the ball maximises the speed of the shot and slow spin rate causes an erratic, unstable flight.

Apart from the topspin free kick, Juninho Pernambucano brought another shot into prominence – the knuckleball. Hitting very clean strikes with almost no spin which moved unpredictably in the air enabled him to score some of the greatest long-range free kicks football has ever seen. Similarly as with the topspin free kick, he was inspired by Marcelinho Carioca who is among the most proficient users of the knuckleball in the history of the game.

Hitting a knuckleball has since become a technical skill desired by many free kick takers, but very few have mastered it. Among the exceptions are Cristiano Ronaldo, who using the knuckleball scored some spectacular free kicks throughout his career, and Andrea Pirlo, whose inspiration was Juninho himself and whom he tried to imitate.

Although some balls are more prone to this unpredictable movement than others, it can only be generated if the player is able to execute a very clean shot with almost no spin applied to the ball. Different swings can be used to achieve this effect and, as with other types of strikes, the technique has to be tailored to each individual player.