The short answer is yes, you are allowed to feint or ‘fake‘ free kick motions during your run up to the ball. However, faking the actual kicking motion once your run up is completed is prohibited and punishable.
Now let‘s dive into the complete guide on faking free kicks in soccer…
As a fellow football fanatic, I know you‘ll love expanding your knowledge on this controversial part of the game. There‘s nothing more satisfying than seeing a brilliantly taken set piece bamboozle the opposing wall!
Grab a snack, sit back and enjoy this detailed breakdown of the rules, tactics and famous incidents around faking free kicks. You‘ll be a soccer rules expert by the end!
What Exactly is a Free Kick in Soccer?
Just to make sure we‘re on the same page, a free kick is awarded when a player commits a foul outside of the penalty area. Common examples include:
- Tripping, kicking or pushing an opponent
- Handling the ball deliberately
The referee stops play and the fouled team gets a ‘free‘ chance to strike at goal from the spot of the infringement.
All defenders must stand at least 10 yards away to allow the kick to be taken.
Free kicks are either:
- Direct – can go straight into the goal if accurate enough.
Indirect – must touch another player before entering the goal.
Below is a helpful table summarizing the different types:
|Free Kick Type
|What it‘s Awarded For
|Can go directly into goal?
|Serious fouls (kick, trip, charge etc.)
|No, must touch another player first
Hopefully that provides a quick refresher on what we‘re dealing with when it comes to free kicks!
What Does "Faking a Free Kick Mean?
Faking a free kick essentially means you are feinting or making fake motions to confuse the defending team‘s wall and goalkeeper.
Some examples of feinting include:
- Taking a longer, slower run up
- Stutter stepping during your run up
- Faking to strike the ball during your run up
- Exaggerated body or leg movements before striking the ball
The objective is to get defenders to react early, potentially shifting their wall position or causing them to jump prematurely. This might open up space for the actual shot or catch them off balance.
Crucially though, as we‘ll explore next, certain types of feinting are prohibited…
The Rules Around Feinting When Taking a Free Kick
According to the official Laws of the Game, feinting or faking motions during your run up to the ball is completely legal and part of football.
You are free to stutter step, vary your tempo, make fake striking motions – anything to try and gain an advantage during your approach.
However, feinting to kick the ball once your run up is completed is considered an infringement.
At this point, if you fake striking the ball or stop your kicking motion once you‘ve reached the ball, you have committed an offense.
This is punishable by awarding an indirect free kick to the opposing team at the spot of the infringement. Persistent offenders may also be cautioned with a yellow card for unsporting behavior.
So in summary:
- Feinting during run up = Fine 👍
- Faking the kick itself = Punishable Offense ❌
It‘s a subtle distinction, but an important one every player should know!
Why is Feinting When Kicking Prohibited?
This rule helps enforce sporting behavior and prevent free kick takers from gaining an unfair advantage.
If players could legally stop or hesitate when kicking the ball, it would be nearly impossible for defenders and goalkeepers to know when to react.
By only allowing feints during the run up, free kick takers can try to unsettle the wall, but still have to decisively kick the ball from the resting position.
This ensures some balance and means the kicker can‘t completely dominate the dead ball situation.
Setting Up The Defensive Wall
To combat direct free kicks, the defending team will usually form a ‘wall‘ of players.
Up to 5 players will stand side-by-side approximately 10 yards from the ball to block as much of the goal as possible.
Below is a typical 4-man wall setup:
According to the rules, these are the key requirements for the defensive wall:
- Must retreat at least 10 yards (9.15m) from the ball
- Cannot badly distract the kicker e.g. excessive shouting
- May jump or raise arms when kick taken but not as distraction
Referees will firmly manage the wall to ensure fair play from both sides.
Clever Tactics Around Walls
Over the years, teams have devised various tactics to try and outwit defensive walls during free kicks:
Curl It Around
Expert free kick takers can bend the ball around the wall into the side netting. This relies on finesse rather than power to beat the keeper.
Smash It Through
Some players have the power to simply blast a direct strike hard and low, right through the wall‘s legs or gaps.
Driven low shots aimed under the jumping wall take advantage of unsighted goalkeepers.
Mix Up Placement
Varying height, angle and spin on shots prevents the wall and keeper from predicting easily.
Screen the Wall‘s View
Attackers near the wall may obstruct sightlines and allow curved shots to surprise.
There‘s a constant battle of tactics and wit around free kick walls in soccer. Creativity and skill are needed to come out on top!
Controversial Feinting Incidents
While feinting innovatively during your run up is completely acceptable, some players have pushed the rules with illegal fakes over the years.
Here are some controversial free kick attempts:
- Leighton Baines (Everton) – Performed an illegal stop in his run up, leading to a retake and yellow card.
Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) – Tried a bizarre 360 degree spin during his run up in a Champions League match. Punished with indirect free kick.
Ronny Heberson (Brazil) – Developed an unorthodox routine of illegal start-stops during run ups, receiving multiple yellows.
Dimitri Payet (France) – Hesitated just before ball contact, narrowly avoiding punishment from referees.
As you can see, while feinting is allowed in moderation, officials keep a close eye for any exaggerated or unsporting fakes.
Famous Free Kick Masters
Let‘s end on a positive note by looking at some of the all-time greatest free kick takers:
Renowned for scoring impossible bending free kicks from extreme angles.
Juninho free kicks scored in career: 77
Expert at curling vicious shots up and over the wall from wide areas.
Beckham free kicks scored: 65
Deceptively places near post shots low beyond the wall‘s outstretched arms.
Messi free kicks scored: 58
Hits with power and dip using his unique knuckleball technique.
Ronaldo free kicks scored: 55
These top specialists show how practice, finesse and creativity combine to master the art of free kicks.
I hope you‘ve enjoyed this detailed free kick guide my friend. Let me know if you have any other soccer rules questions!