The skill and patience needed to master the skill of curving a soccer ball are immeasurable. We see it all the time in pros like Eden Hazard, Aguero, Messi, and Ronaldo. Although all of these players are offensively-minded, knowing how to curve a soccer ball is a skill that a lot of pros have mastered and a lot want to learn. As someone who used to play soccer, this was a skill I prided myself on, knowing that it would be easier to score given the ball’s unorthodox trajectory.
To curve a soccer ball, kick the ball on low left or right side, depending on where you want it to spin, with the center inside of your foot. Bringing your leg across your body will add extra curve and power to the kick. Proper follow through, ball contact location, and power are essential to curve a soccer ball.
Regardless of the position you play, knowing and mastering how to curve a soccer ball is an essential step in becoming a better soccer player. We see this all the time in highlight reels, as it gives both the viewers and players that satisfying feeling of witnessing the ball barely escaping the goalkeeper’s fingertips and back into the net.
Free Kicks and Corners
This is most likely one of the safest and easiest ways to curve a ball. Unlike in other scenarios, players are static and free of opposing defense. So, whenever you are in these situations, it’s much easier to curve the ball without the pressure of it being taken away from you by a nearby defender.
One key trait is that the ball is static as well. In a free kick or corner, both you and the ball are in place, and no other forces are bothering your attempt. Therefore, this makes it a lot easier to strike since you can time your position, your run, as well as the power of your kick.
This scenario is almost a freebie when it comes to an opportunity to curve the ball really well.
The first step is to position yourself for the run-up. Usually, in soccer, players are a couple of feet away from the ball in order to gain momentum. When we see a lot of curveballs, we also see a lot of players pulling themselves away from it in order to use their momentum to spiral the ball towards the net.
To measure this, place the ball down wherever you are, and take a few steps back. To know if you are too far or too close, it should only look like a short run away from you. In fact, three strides should do the trick.
If you are in the corner position, approach it at a 45-degree angle. This will allow you to curve the ball into the player box with ease.
Free Kicks and Corners: Body-Foot Alignment
If you ever run straight through, it will be a lot harder to kick the ball with the curvature you want. This is why, when we see a lot of players in a free kick or corner situation, they are always at an angle towards the ball and a short run away from it.
More importantly, compared to a free-kick and how far you are from the net, be sure to adjust this angle accordingly depending on how many spins you want.
- If you are a right-footer, approach the ball from the left side.
- On the other hand, if you are a left-footer, approach the ball from the right side.
The second step is to set yourself up prior to the kick. Right before that foot comes into contact with the ball, make sure that you plant your standing foot(non-dominant) next to the ball before making contact. Think of it as running up, planting the non-dominant, and kicking with the dominant.
This is especially crucial if you want stability when you are farther out, and just for aim in general.
- The direction of the non-dominant planting foot should also be facing in the general direction of where you want the ball to go.
- On the other hand, if the foot you place is facing the wrong direction, you will see how inaccurate your kick will be.
- Finally, when you plant the standing foot, make sure it is close to the ball. This way, you do not have to overstretch your kicking foot.
- But also, make sure that the foot is not too close that it would interfere with the ball’s takeoff.
- Over time, you would just have to feel out the perfect distance for yourself.
The third step is to align your body. As you are building up the momentum to strike the ball, the standing foot should be almost planted down through the ground and your body should be leaning to the side that you want the ball to end up in.
In order to swerve the ball left, lean left. If you want to curve the ball right, lean right. To balance yourself better, your arms should raise to your sides, giving you more stability in the kick.
We see this a lot in players like Ronaldo or Messi, who use this extra stability to fine-tune their shot.
Free Kicks and Corners: Striking
The next step is to strike the ball. Now that you have set yourself up in the right way, strike the ball with the interior of your foot to add curve during the ball’s flight. Once you make that contact, hit the ball with the area of your foot directly after contact with your big toe.
With practice and dedication, you are going to realize that if you hit the ball near your toes, the ball will not be possible to control.
- With the right foot, kick the ball in the bottom right of the ball to curve it left.
- To curve it right, use the left foot to strike the lower left of the ball.
- Now, we want to add some elevation.
- To do this, hit the ball further down to increase height mid-flight.
- If the ball is kicked in the most bottom portion, then you will be giving it too much momentum, making it go over the top of the goal and into the stands.
The final and, maybe, the most important step, is the follow-through.
With the standing foot remaining on the floor, the rest of your body should move with the motion of the shot. Make sure that your striking foot is following through as this will improve accuracy and is much more natural.
Here’s a helpful video explaining the process of curving a soccer ball so you can see these steps in action.
Free Kicks with the Outside of Your Foot
Although most of the time we kick with the inside of our foot, we can also make it so that we can kick with the outside of the foot, famously done by Roberto Carlos. It is a much tougher skill to learn but is well worth the time.
The first step is to master how you approach the ball. Before, we talked about how to come into the ball at a 45-degree angle.
Here, start the momentum by being straight behind the ball with the goal right in front of you. Since you want to curve it inwards, aim slightly to the side of the goal. This is almost like overshooting to make up for the curvature. Further, if you want, you can extend the distance you have from the ball.
- The next step is to place the standing foot the right way.
- Just like the curve we mentioned, place the standing foot next to the ball.
- This makes it go a long way to determine accuracy.
- However, now that we are kicking on the outside, we want to stand 1 foot behind the ball and slightly to the side.
- If the foot is way too far from the ball, you are going to need to stretch for it, which is harder.
- In turn, you will lose a lot of power from that lost distance as well as some accuracy.
- If it is too close, on the other hand, it will impede the path of the striking foot,
The third step is to strike the ball. Run directly at it, connect with the outside while aiming slightly for the outside of the target for the curvature. The ideal spot to strike is directly behind your smallest toe. Here, if you are right-footed, aim to make contact on the bottom left.
The most important step, again, is the follow-through. The more follow-through that you have, the more curve that you have.
With more curve, it’s much harder for the goalkeeper to stop a goal from being scored. If using the right foot, your leg should be moving to the left and rise up slightly. Naturally, the left arm will come down to give more power. On the other hand, when using the left, the leg should be moving to the right.
Here’s a helpful video to show you how to curve a soccer ball with the outside of your foot.
Curving the Ball on the Move
The above situations are very easy, relatively, to this one. Since those two situations were stationary, you had full control of power, direction, and accuracy. If the shot failed, the blame is all on you. If the shot succeeded, you know that your hard work paid off.
To get a curve on the ball while in motion, you need the perfect delivery and shooting technique.
The first step is to analyze the surroundings.
- Do you have the time to even attempt to cross or curve the ball?
- Is there enough space to do it?
- Is my vision to the net clear?
- If the situation is bad, how can I make it better in terms of space?
Rather than going for a fancy play, it is better to opt for the regular pass rather than a curve given the situation. If the situation is right, then we move on to look up and pick a target.
Next, we want to establish our understanding of our surroundings. This involves being quick to think on your feet and knowing where your teammate is headed, the defenders in the way, and any other options you can follow.
- This is also a concept in basketball
- Instead of passing it to the teammate
- Pass it to where they should be
- Or where they are headed
- To counter the defense using the receiver’s speed.
Given that, you want to estimate how much power and curve you would need to place into the ball when you strike it. Although there is a lot of thought about this simple move, practice and even more practice should make it all come instinctively. With more practice, it goes a long way in having great results on the field.
Once you have judged where to place the ball, drop your attention to the ball itself and strike.
If you are sprinting along the touchline with the ball ahead of you or you have dribbled past the defense, you should cross the ball with a curve. It is best to slow down a little as this is going to help you improve the shot accuracy.
By slowing down, you try to mimic the closest to what a free kick would be like, even though you are on the move. In order to do this, place your non-kicking foot, standing foot, behind the ball and wrap your shooting foot around the ball before the kick.
The next step is all about opportunity. If you can shoot, you can either choose to gather the power and momentum and strike the ball or sacrifice the power with some finesse to trick the keeper.
Curving the ball in an accurate fashion can help you place the ball around the keeper, but you have to do it with a certain amount of power. If not, it will just safely land on the keeper’s arms.
Since this is usually a split-second decision, players want to reduce their opportunity cost. Usually, people go for a mix of accuracy and power.
The last step is to take a touch. Regardless if you are crossing or scoring, setting yourself up is very important. Before making the chance, take a touch before striking the ball. This will allow you to set up at a perfect distance away from it before running into it.
Here’s another quick video about curling shots. Use these techniques to curve the soccer ball while on the move.
Although all of these tips and process is helpful, you need to apply that theory into practice. Keep practicing your skills as a forward, defender, or midfielder. Regardless of the position you play, curving the ball is an essential skill in the field. A lot of the pros practice their craft regularly, and so should you.
One of the best ways to do this is through simulation testing. Get into an open field and grab your soccer ball. Place that soccer ball into whatever position on the field and try to mimic a free-kick situation. I usually do this by going in the box, heading about 25 feet out, and laying the ball in the center.
- I drop the ball and use that 45-degree angle about a couple of steps out.
- I just keep kicking the ball with the steps we had in mind.
- I plant my non-kicking foot on the left side and kick the lower part of the ball with my right.
- I keep doing this drill over and over till I get the curvature, accuracy, and power that I want.
Another drill that you can do in practice to elevate your game is using props as players. Sometimes, I would use a row of chairs in front of me as imaginary defenders in a free-kick situation. In most free kicks, there is a bunch of players waiting to head the ball away.
It’s imperative that you get the ball above their head, and have the height and elevation to your kick.
Otherwise, it will be futile to curve the ball if it’s not even going to make it past those initial defenders. Sometimes, I would stack every two chairs next to one another to get varying heights. This way, I simulate the differing heights and leaps that a player could make.
How Practice Makes Perfect
However, the best practice is to play practice games before the real competition. The reason why practice is the best way to improve is because practicing will hone your skills and add armor your weaknesses. Regardless if curving the ball is a weakness or strength, implementing it into practice will make you much better in real situations during game-time.
Check out my article, 26 At Home Practice Soccer Drills to help give you ideas of some practice drills you could be running.
Another good tactic is to simply just watch tutorials. There are a lot more people better than you at your skill, and it’s important to lower the ego and learn from them.
Look at the minute details and changes that you want to implement to make yourself a better player. There are tons of techniques and mentors willing to teach online sources through a more hands-on approach. This way, you see it visually, on a step-by-step basis.
Finally, learn from the pros. Watch highlights from Ronaldo or Messi, or whoever your favorite soccer player is. Look at their demeanor. The way they plant the foot. The way they kick the ball. The way they set up the defense to trick them on the curve. Look at the slow-motion footwork at play so that you can really analyze the greatest to ever do it and integrate that into your style.