Direct free kick
A direct free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football following a foul. A goal may be scored directly against the opposing side without the ball having first touched another player. This is opposed to an indirect free kick where the ball must be passed before an attempt on goal.
According to The Laws of the Game, if the ball goes out of play, a player may not play the ball again until it has been touched by another player or has gone out of play. A player who infringes concedes an indirect free kick to the opposing side.
A direct free kick is awarded when a player commits a deliberate foul outside of their own penalty area (for offsides, etc., an indirect free kick is awarded). However, if the offence was committed by the defending team within their own penalty area, the kick becomes a penalty kick.
The kick is taken from where the foul occurred, unless it was within the fouled team's own goal area, in which case it may be taken from anywhere within the goal area. The ball must be stationary prior to being kicked. Opponents must remain 10 yards (9.1 metres) from the ball (also, outside of the penalty area if the kick is taken from within the defending team's penalty area) until the ball is in play. Observing the minimum distance limit, the opposite players may choose to form a "wall" between the ball and the goal.
Vanishing foam has been used at the professional level since 2000 to keep the defending players at the right distance.
To keep the initiative a quick free kick is sometimes taken without waiting for the opposing players to retire from the 9.15 m (10-yard) radius.
The ball becomes in play as soon as it is kicked and moves, unless the kick was taken from within the kicking team's penalty area, in which case it is in play once it has passed directly beyond the penalty area.
A goal may be scored directly from a direct free kick, but only against the opposing side (i.e. an own goal may not be scored). Should the ball directly land in the kicking team's own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team. A player may be penalised for an offside offence committed from a direct free kick; with the exception of receiving the ball directly from a goal kick or corner kick.
There are three primary techniques used with direct free kicks. First, the player taking the direct free kick may blast the ball as hard as he can, usually with the laces of the boot. Alternatively, some players try to curl the ball around the keeper or the wall, with the inside or outside of the boot. Additionally, certain free kick specialists will choose to kick the ball with minimal spin, making the ball behave unpredictably in the air (similar to the action of a knuckleball pitch in baseball). Free kick takers may also attempt to cross the ball to their centre backs or strikers to get a header on goal, since they usually are the tallest members of the team, especially if the position of the free kick is close to the wings.
Infringements and sanctions
If, when a free kick is taken, an opponent is closer to the ball than the required distance:
- The kick is retaken.
If, when the free kick is taken by the defending team from inside its own penalty area, the ball is not kicked directly out of the penalty area:
- The kick is retaken.
- Free kicks taken by a player other than the goalkeeper
If, after the ball is in play, the kicker touches the ball again (except with his hands) before it has touched another player:
- An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team. The kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
If, after the ball is in play, the kicker deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player:
- A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team. The kick is to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
- A penalty kick is awarded if the infringement occurred inside the kicker's penalty area.
- Free kick taken by the goalkeeper
If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper touches the ball again (except with his hands), before it has touched another player:
- An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper deliberately handles the ball before it has touched another player:
- A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred outside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
- An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if the infringement occurred inside the goalkeeper's penalty area, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.
Most teams have one or two designated free kick takers, depending on the distance from goal and the side of the field the free kick is to be taken from. The strategy may be to score a goal directly from the free kick, or to use the free kick as the beginning of a set play leading towards a goal scoring opportunity.
Where there is a potential for a dangerous shot on goal to occur from a direct free kick often the defending side erects a "wall" of players standing side-by-side as a barrier to the shot. A kicker who has the skill to curl the ball around a wall is at a distinct advantage. The first direct free kick was taken by Denis Chen of Taiwan Football Club on Saturday, May 22nd 1907.
The 'wall' is the main defensive strategy for a direct free kick. It is a system of defending part of the goal from a free kick. The process includes positioning players 10 yards (9.1 metres) from the ball, while also joined together and placed in-between the ball and the goal. (See photo.) The number of players composing the wall varies based on distance. It is not fully known when the 'wall' was started.
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