Curl (association football)

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David Beckham scoring with a bending free kick in 2007. The ball is struck with the inside of his right foot, with his body leaning to the left to generate extra curl on the ball.

Curl or bend in association football is spin on the ball which will make it change direction, called a 'screw shot' in the 19th century. When kicking the ball, the inside of the foot is often used to curl the ball, but this can also be done by using the outside of the foot. Similar to curl, the ball can also swerve in the air, without the spin on the ball which makes the ball curl.

Curling or bending the ball is especially evident from free kicks, shots from outside the penalty area and crosses. Differences between balls can also affect the amount of swerve and curl: traditional leather footballs were too heavy to curl without great effort, whereas the lighter modern footballs curl with a lower effort threshold. As a general rule, the lighter and smoother the ball the more deviation there is.


The deviation of a ball from the straight path in the air is known as the curl, or swerve; however, the spin on the ball that causes this is also known as the curl. Shots that curl or swerve are known as curlers, swingers, or in extreme cases, banana shots. The technique of putting curl on a ball with the outside of the foot is known as a trivela, a Portuguese term, with Ricardo Quaresma an exponent.[1] The top spin technique of putting straight curl (instead of side curl) on a ball is known as a dip or dipping shot.[2]


Free kicks[edit]

Roberto Carlos' bending free kick for Brazil against France in 1997 was struck with the outside of his left foot.

Free kick takers often curl and put spin on the ball, to curl it over or around the wall of defending players, out of the reach of the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers usually organize walls to cover one side of the goal, and then stand themselves on the other side. Thus, the free kick taker has several choices, including; either to curl the ball around the wall with finesse, to bend the ball around the wall using power, or to go over the wall (although this lessens the likelihood of scoring close-range free kicks).

The 1950s Brazilian star Didi invented the folha seca (dry leaf) which is nowadays commonly known as the knuckleball free kick,[3] notably used by modern day players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Juninho, where the ball would be struck with either no or a low amount of spin, causing it to swerve downward unexpectedly at a point near the goal.[4]


Curling can be an effective technique when taking corners. The ball gradually moves in the air towards the goal. This is referred to as an in-swinging corner. Occasionally, a corner-taker will bend the ball towards the edge of the penalty area, for an attacker to volley, or take a touch and then shoot.


Curling can be used in passing. Effective passes from midfield to an attacking player are often the result of a curled pass around the defender, or long cross field passes are sometimes aided by the addition of curl or backspin.


The reason that spin on a football makes it curl is known as the Magnus effect. This causes a rotating ball to form a whirlpool about itself, with one side's air moving with the ball and the other side's air moving against the ball. This creates a difference in air pressure, and the ball deviates from its path as a result of this.[5]

The Magnus effect is named after German physicist Heinrich Gustav Magnus, who described the effect in 1852.[5] In 1672, Isaac Newton had described it and correctly inferred the cause after observing tennis players in his Cambridge college.[6][7]

Notable players[edit]

Many football players are renowned for their ability to curl or bend the ball when passing or shooting at goal, either from open play or a free kick, some of which include: Pelé, Didi, Rivelino, Zico, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Gianfranco Zola, Siniša Mihajlović, Zinedine Zidane, Rivaldo, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Juninho, Ronald Koeman, Andrea Pirlo, Ricardo Quaresma, Gareth Bale, Philippe Coutinho, Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, Neymar, Kaká, Miralem Pjanić, Rogério Ceni, Shunsuke Nakamura, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Hristo Stoichkov, Fran Kirby, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi.[nb 1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "20 Football Tricks and the Players Who Invented Them". Bleacher Report. 4 August 2018.
  2. ^ "How To Score a Dipping Shot | The Ultimate Guide To Shooting With Dip".
  3. ^ "Top 10 Knuckleball Goals".
  4. ^ a b "Kings of the free-kick". Retrieved 20 May 2014
  5. ^ a b G. Magnus (1852) "Über die Abweichung der Geschosse," Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, pages 1-23.
  6. ^ Isaac Newton, "A letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, of the University of Cambridge, containing his new theory about light and color," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 7, pages 3075-3087 (1671-1672). (Note: In this letter, Newton tried to explain the refraction of light by arguing that rotating particles of light curve as they moved through a medium just as a rotating tennis ball curves as it moves through the air.)
  7. ^ Gleick, James. 2004. Isaac Newton. London: Harper Fourth Estate.
  8. ^ "The Joy of Six: classiest hat-tricks". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2014
  9. ^ "From Messi to Ronaldo – the world's best free kick takers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 November 2012
  10. ^ "Watch Real Madrid's Gareth Bale curl in a mesmerizing free kick from 35 yards". USA Today. Retrieves 20 December 2014
  11. ^ "Free-kick master Pirlo". Football Italia. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  12. ^ Martin Mazur (1 November 2007). "Gianfranco Zola: One-on-One". Four Four Two. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  13. ^ Dermot Corrigan (25 September 2015). "Neymar ready to take over from Lionel Messi on Barcelona free kicks". ESPN FC. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  14. ^ Roger Gonzalez (13 September 2016). "WATCH: This free kick goal from Neymar in the Champions League is a thing of beauty". Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  15. ^ Mark Rodden (26 October 2015). "Juninho says Miralem Pjanic is world's best free-kick taker". ESPN FC. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  16. ^ Muhammad Butt (12 September 2018). "10 players that have somehow scored more free-kicks than Lionel Messi… so far". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  17. ^ Liew, Jonathan (4 July 2016). "Ricardo Quaresma emerges from Cristiano Ronaldo's shadow to help duo to brink of career-defining glory". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  18. ^ Theivam, Kieran (5 May 2018). "Fran Kirby stars as Chelsea Ladies win second Women's FA Cup over Arsenal". The Independent. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  19. ^ Ronan Murphy (15 January 2018). "Bend it Like Beckham: The football comedy that launched Keira Knightley's career". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  20. ^ “Season 10 - Bend It Like Brackenreid - Murdoch Mysteries“. CBC. Retrieved 4 August 2018

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