Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

From Messi to Ronaldo - the world's best free-kick takers

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
During his last couple of seasons at Manchester United, Ronaldo became the undisputed free-kick taker at Old Trafford. And he's continued as the favoured dead-ball specialist since moving to Real Madrid, despite a wealth of options. Ronaldo's technique is almost unique in that he appears to kick down on the ball, creating an unpredictable swerve almost impossible for goalkeepers to track. The speed of his free-kicks also allow for some long-range action.
Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan)
Nakamura came to the attention of most English football fans with his devastating displays against Manchester United in the Champions League in 2006. He scored dramatic free-kicks for Celtic in both the home and away ties during the group stages of that year. The Japanese midfielder has a habit of scoring dramatic goals - none more so than the injury-time free-kick against Kilmarnock in 2007 that landed Celtic their 41st League title. Now at Yokohama Marinos, Japan will be relying on Nakamura's speciality to progress from a tough looking World Cup group.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
There's nothing that the best player in the world can't do - and that includes curling the ball into the top corner of the net. Yet the little maestro may not have had his chance to impress with the dead-ball if it wasn't for Diego Maradona's falling out with Juan Roman Riquelme. The former Villarreal midfielder scored a pair of majestically-struck set-pieces during qualification and was a shoe-in to take the free-kicks, but Maradona's refusal to pick him led to Riquelme announcing his international retirement earlier this year. Messi will step up and the world will take a deep breath - can the Barcelona man prove himself The Greatest beyond all doubt?

Ahead of the World Cup, the Belfast Telegraph will be running down the key people and factors to keep an eye out for in South Africa.

>>Click on the image to launch our guide.

From free-kick takers to WAGs, blasts from the past to the youngsters, we'll have it all covered before things kick-off in Johannesburg.

Despite the absence of David Beckham, South Africa will play host to numerous dead-ball specialists. Here, we bring you the free-kick takers to watch at the 2010 World Cup.

Source: Independent

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