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It is a skill that is hard to master and even harder to do during a game. We have seen numerous professional soccer players do it perfectly, most notably Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Even defender David Luiz has shown that he can score free kicks with this technique.
But how exactly can you do it? If professional players find it hard then how is an amateur soccer player meant to be able to do it?
The best thing about a knuckleball in soccer is that the ball goes through the air with little to no spin on it and because of this, the trajectory of the ball is far less predictable for the goalkeeper to save.
In this article, we will have a look at a step-by-step look at how to perform the knuckle shot in soccer, why a soccer ball knuckles when kicked a certain way, and who invented the knuckleball.
Six steps on how to perform a knuckleball in soccer
1. The run-up
Ideally, you are going to want to start your run-up around three to five steps and for best results, you should try and approach the ball from a 35 to 45-degree angle. When you are approaching the ball you will want to do so by stepping on your toes.
2. Your supporting foot
You are going to need space away from the ball, around 15 cm to 20 cm and your toes will need to be pointing in the direction that you want the ball to go once you strike it.
3. Point of contact on the ball
The main goal of a knuckle shot in soccer is for the ball to have little to no spin on it. To do this you will want to strike the soccer call just below the center and when you do this, it will avoid pretty much any backspin and the ball will not go higher than intended.
4. Foot contact point
Ideally, you will want your foot to strike between the middle of the ankle joint and the instep. You should try and do your best so that your foot as stiff as you can at the point of contact with the ball.
5. The posture of your body
You are going to want to avoid leaning back when kicking the ball and you should try your best to keep your body straight or only leaning slightly forward. This is so when you make contact with the ball, it reduces the spin and you will have much better control over the ball when you are striking it.
6. The follow-through
The main purpose of a knuckleball is so that the ball has little to no spin on it when it is traveling towards a goal. You are going to need to move your kicking foot outward slightly and then move your body in the general direction of your strike.
After you have kicked the ball, you should do your best to try and stop your leg from following through as quickly as you can and take no more than a couple of steps to settle your body.
Everyone is going to have different results but if you try your best to follow these steps then you could be kicking the soccer ball like Cristiano Ronaldo in no time.
Why does a soccer ball knuckle?
A soccer ball will knuckle when a player uses a specific type of technique to make the ball have little to no spin on it. Generally, when players take shots at goal or have a free-kick, they try to put as my spin or curve on the ball as possible to either go up and over the wall or to curl the ball into the top corner and out of reach for the goalkeeper.
When it comes to a knuckleball, the aim for no spin is simply so that the ball flight is far less predictable to the keeper and therefore will make it harder for the goalkeeper to save.
Because of how the ball can deviate and move when kicked in this way, the keepers can often be caught out because they are expecting the ball to either be blasted straight or curled into the corner of the goal.
The knuckle shot does have a good element of surprise to it and it is a good option for soccer players to have in their kit bag as when it is performed right, it can make the goalkeeper look foolish.
Who invented the knuckleball in soccer?
A Brazilian soccer player by the name of Didi invented knuckleball in the 1950s. It was originally called Folha which is today called a knuckleball and it is generally used when a player is standing over a free-kick.
Superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and retired player Juninho have perfected the technique and can do it nearly every time with great results. Ronaldo’s most famous version of the knuckleball free-kick was his effort in 2009 against Portsmouth which can be seen here.
Ronaldo takes a deliberate step back of about three of five steps, hits the ball just under the center, and has little to no follow-through and the result is a superb free-kick that is unstoppable. Portsmouth goalkeeper David James is left rooted to the spot and can only watch as the ball smashes into his net.
The Portuguese superstar is perhaps the best at exploiting this technique and as you can see, when it is done right, the results are incredible.
So hopefully we have given you an insight into how the knuckleball is used and how to do it correctly so next time you are on the soccer pitch you can try it out for yourself.