Memorable Free Kicks Scored at the World Cup

football free kick illustration conceptIf you’ve ever watched a football match, you’ll know that free kicks can provide exciting moments. This is even truer when it comes to the World Cup. Often times, they can present opportunities for a team to score amazing goals. It’s happened many before as well with several instances of players scoring fantastic goals from a free kick.

These occasions stand out amongst many as moments of brilliance on the pitch. People often talk about impressive free kicks that end up with the ball in the back of the net. Even from World Cups of decades past. With this being the case, we wanted to know more about these circumstances. How frequent has it been the case that they have happened?

It would be wonderful to imagine that free kick goals have occurred in all matches. Yet if that were the case, they would lose their splendour, without a doubt. The fact that they don’t happen on a regular basis makes them all the more special. Indeed, in 2022’s World Cup from Qatar, the first free kick goal came six days into the tournament. This happened when Morocco overwhelmed Belgium in a 2-0 shock win. It was only the third win for the team in their World Cup history. Goals came from Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal.

Actually, in that match, the ball was in the Belgian net twice from direct free kicks. The first was unfortunately disallowed as an offside against Romain Saiss. A free kick at the 73rd minute from Sabiri flew by both Saiss and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois. Nobody was offside this time, and Sabiri’s ball flew straight into the back of the net. Morocco’s second goal came from Aboukhlal in added time.

Actual percentages or figures relating to this are hard to come by. This could be due to the fact that nobody has taken the opportunity to tally such instances. Therefore, we can’t speak of the number of times this has occurred. Instead, what we can do, is highlight some of the most memorable World Cup free kick goals.

Mexico Vs Saudi Arabia, World Cup 2022: Qatar

saudi arabia vs mexico flags

Luis Chavez scored what is lauded as the ‘perfect free kick’ in Mexico’s final group game against Saudi Arabia at the 2022 World Cup.  The strike gave Mexico a two goal lead in the match, which they subsequently won 2-1, but that was not enough for them to qualify for the knockout rounds as they missed out on goal difference to Poland.

Still, despite Mexico not making it any further in the competition the Chavez’s free kick will be long remembered for its technical brilliance.  Set dead centre of the goal from around 35 yards out the Mexican curled the ball viciously into the top right corner, no goalkeeper in the world would have been able to save it.

The replay will be played for a long time in various training videos for clubs around the world as to how to take a perfect free kick.

Netherlands Vs Ivory Coast, World Cup 2006: Germany

robin van persie training for netherlands
Robin van Persie training for The Netherlands – Kathi Rudminat, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Robin van Persie suffered from a tumultuous 2005-06. He experienced various injuries and appeared only 37 times for Arsenal. Despite this, his early goal-scoring form was impressive enough for Marco van Basten. He included the young forward in the Dutch World Cup squad for 2006.

This saw him feature in all four of The Netherlands’ fixtures at the finals. Van Persie would register his first World Cup goal against the Ivory Coast in the group stage. This was his only goal of the competition that year.

It proved to be quite the thriller, though. With a fierce left-footed drive from outside the area, the Ivory Coast goalie had no chance. Jean-Jacques Tizie may have leapt to try and stop it from going in, but van Persie had succeeded. The ball flew into the top left corner of the goal, and the Netherlands advanced in a 2-1 win. Portugal ended up knocking the Dutch team out of the World Cup later on. Yet van Persie’s free kick remains in the memories of football lovers today.

England Vs Ecuador, World Cup 2006: Germany

david beckham at 2006 world cup
David Beckham at 2006 World Cup – ger1axg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone in England was hanging on for the national team to advance to the finals. Everyone knew that their round of 16 match against Ecuador would be a trial. That came to fruition as well.

England struggled to control the ball for a large part of the match. Yet even with this being the case, Ecuador was unable to get the advantage. The score sat at 0-0 by the end of the first half. Even as the second half got underway, things were slow moving. Neither team could seem to get the better of the other.

Yet at the 60-minute mark, everyone left their hopes in David Beckham’s hands. Or rather, in his feet. Alas, hopes weren’t especially high, considering Beckham hadn’t done much for England by that time. His contributions in the 2006 World Cup had been minimal. Yet after a foul on him, Beckham received the free kick. Watched on by his wife Victoria and popstar Cheryl Cole, Beckham leapt into action.

The ball flew through the air and hit the back of the net, giving England a 1-0 lead. The team would win on that goal and advance to the quarter finals. There, England’s dreams disappeared after losing to Portugal on penalties. Beckham also resigned as captain of England after the 2006 World Cup. Yet his free kick goal in the round of 16 is still a memorable moment.

Switzerland Vs USA, World Cup 1994: USA

Eric Wynalda pictured 2012
Eric Wynalda pictured 2012 – Eric.Jason.Cross, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What could be better than experiencing a single free kick goal? Seeing two of them, of course! That’s exactly what happened when Switzerland and the USA met in 1994’s World Cup. Both were in Group A and opened proceedings for that group on June 18. It marked the first World Cup game to take place indoors.

Things remained on the calm front for most of the first half. Yet at the 39th minute, Switzerland’s Alain Sutter received a free kick. Georges Bregy stepped up to take that free kick on his behalf.  It didn’t take long for him to fire a right-footed ball into the top-right corner of the net.

Nobody could have predicted what happened next, though. At the 44th minute, the USA earned itself a free kick as well. Eric Wynalda chose to take the shot, and it was from further back than Bregy’s. A right-foot fired the ball into the top-left of the Swiss team’s net, equalling the score to 1-1. That’s how the match finished, and both teams advanced to the second round. As it happens, both teams made it no further than that. The United States lost to Brazil while Switzerland conceded to Spain.

Brazil Vs Scotland, World Cup 1982: Spain

zico brazil
Zico – Panini, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Brazil has always done well in the World Cup. In 1982, it was the strong favourite to win the whole competition. The team put on a fantastic display against the Soviet Union in their opening match. This saw them succeed with a 2-1 victory. The second match would put them up against Scotland in group 6.

The Scots had claimed a 5-2 victory over New Zealand in their opening match a few days prior. In the first half, Scotland looked to outdo Brazil as well, with David Narey scoring at 18 minutes. The team was on a high and continued to perform well. Yet things seemed to fall apart after 30 minutes or so.

The Brazilian team won a free kick from a full 30 yards away from the goal. Yet not one to suffer discouragement, Zico stepped up to the ball. He managed to ensure the ball flew well over the wall of players, and it ended up landing in the top-right corner. Scotland’s goalkeeper Alan Rough could only watch as it went right by his hands. Brazil took that first goal as a morale boost, securing three more goals in the game. This saw them enjoy a 4-1 victory.

Unfortunately, they didn’t win the tournament as many predicted. They never advanced beyond the second group stage. It would be Italy who claimed the victory in the end, beating West Germany 3-1.

Peru Vs Scotland, World Cup 1978: Argentina

teofilo cubillas
Teófilo Cubillas – Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The World Cup held in Argentina in 1978 suffered issues from the very start. Allegations of match fixing and political controversy within the country were rife. It has remained a World Cup that many would prefer to forget on the whole. Yet it still produced some spectacular football matches. One case in point is Peru’s Group 4 match against Scotland.

While Joseph Jordan had opened the scoring for Scotland at 14 minutes, Peru fought back. Right before half time, César Cueto secured the team’s first goal. Things picked up even more in the second half, though.

Teófilo Cubillas claimed a second goal for Peru in the 71st minute. That put Peru up to 2-1. Even though Scotland proved to be a tough challenge, the Peruvians earned a free kick. At the 77th minute, this proved to be the defining moment for Cubillas. As Juan Munante distracted everyone with a run over the ball, Cubillas took a long run up. Hitting it with the outside of his right foot, the ball sliced past the wall of players. Alan Rough, standing in goal once more, saw it soar past him and into the net past the left post. Peru secured the 3-1 victory and sent Scotland home packing.

England Vs Colombia, World Cup 1998: France

david beckham at 2006 world cup
David Beckham at 2006 World Cup – ger1axg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was at the 1998 World Cup that England looked like true contenders for the trophy. With the guidance of Glenn Hoddle, the team operated as a more cohesive unit. A golden generation of players was present, bringing both youth and experience. Michael Owen was a youngster at the competition, but he started out on the bench.

David Beckham was another star fixture for the tournament. Yet he also began the first two fixtures against Tunisia and Romania on the bench. When it came to the last game in Group G, both Beckham and Owen began on the pitch.

This game against Colombia allowed Beckham to put his talent on display. Yet the first goal for England came from Darren Anderton at 20 minutes, putting the team 1-0 up. Almost 10 minutes later, Paul Ince suffered a tackle 40 yards from the goal. Now was Beckham’s time to step up to the ball with England receiving a free kick. A right-footed strike for Beckham saw the ball fired into the left-hand side of the net. This ensured England went 2-0 up – a score they would advance on.

Unfortunately, the dream ended in the round of 16, with many blaming Beckham for it. During a match against Argentina, he kicked out at Diego Simeone. That resulted in him receiving a red card from the referee. The game finished 2-2 and Argentina won on penalties.

Paraguay Vs SA, World Cup 2002: Korea/Japan

paraguay south africa flags on football pitchIn 2002’s World Cup, Paraguay took on South Africa in Group B. The game finished on a 2-2 outcome, with Paraguay securing its 2 goals first. South Africa would get its own back in the 63rd and 91st minutes. It was the 55th-minute goal for Paraguay that stunned the fans in attendance, though.

It was Francisco Arce who took the free kick, which came from the wide left. He charged at the ball for the first time but stopped in the midst to regain his footing. The second attempt saw him clout the ball in off the underside of the bar.

Oddly enough, it was Paraguay that helped South Africa secure its first goal at the 63rd minute. As Teboho Mokoena approached from South Africa, Paraguay went into defence mode. Defender Estanislao Struway made a mistake and ended up skewing the ball into his own net, though. That served as the first own-goal of the 2002 World Cup.

Final Statistic

There hasn’t been too many statistics thrown out in this guide. Yet we do have one for you. Lionel Messi leads the list for the most free kick goals by any active footballer. On June 15, 2021, the Argentine captain scored a 33-minute free kick against Chile. This came about during the Copa America 2021 tournament.

Through that free kick goal, he soared past Cristiano Ronaldo to take the top spot. It was his 57th free kick goal for club and country. He then went on to score three more free kick goals in various matches, taking his total to 60.

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