Brad Friedel on Bale free-kick technique
Brad Friedel says that the swerve Gareth Bale puts on his free-kicks is "a technique only a few players in the world have" and, although not impossible to stop, they're not far off.
Friedel was watching from the opposite end as Bale struck twice from a dead ball to beat Lyon 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie. He couldn't help feeling an element of sympathy for Remy Vercoutre in the Lyon goal.
"I've seen the first one. There's no spin on the ball the way Gareth hits it. You have to take your first step off the first movement of the ball, and I'm afraid that's the goalkeeper's left and he moved left. Once he did that then he's dead, however, that's 100% not a goalkeeping mistake," Friedel explained.
"I haven't seen the second one from behind the goal yet, I've only seen it from the side. I assume the exact same movement of the ball occurred, and if so it's a really difficult ball to save and again, from my standpoint, it's very difficult to lay blame on a goalkeeper in that instance.
"If you set your wall up correctly you see it come off the foot, and then you have to react to the first direction that it goes – and the problem is that there's no spin on the ball. If there's no spin on the ball and then in mid-flight it goes the opposite way, there's no way to train your eye to deal with that. You just have to try to react the best you can. If someone tries to bend it over a wall with spin on the ball then you know which way it's going to go, unless it deflects.
"[Gareth] has been working a lot on his free-kicks, and he is perfecting that style of free-kick, and I tell you it is so difficult to save. Pepe Reina had all sorts of trouble here when we played Liverpool, it's just such a difficult ball to deal with and it's great that he has that in his repertoire for us."
Friedel said he had faced strikes similar to that from Bale in training, but none quite to that level yet.
"I don't think one of those has gone in against me," he said. "That's a technique only a few players in the world have, to be honest with you. They used to have one at Lyon, Juninho, he used to do the same. It's when you can strike with an open foot and you sort of come over the ball.
"A lot of times there's no spin on the ball, and as a goalkeeper you can't tell where it's going to go, and it moves in the air. It's very difficult. Ronaldo can obviously do it. There's a few players in the world that have really perfected it but it is something that has to be worked on time and time again."
Freidel also rejected the suggestion that one solution would be to remove the defensive wall: "No, if you didn't have a wall then he would just smack the absolute bejesus out of it, low and hard, and you would have no chance."