Set-piece dilemma: CR7 Tomahawk vs Bale Knuckleball
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are set-piece specialists but who will take the free-kicks against Villarreal tonight?
Cristiano Ronaldo has honed his free-kick technique to such a degree that his dead ball strikes, known in Spain as ‘Tomahawks’, are revered the world over. He strikes the ball cleanly, with more precision than force and most importantly, with the instep of his foot angled down which puts an effect on the ball’s trajectory, making it dip right at the last minute. During the past two seasons, Cristiano’s free-kicks have been timed at around 100 kilometres an hour – slightly slower than the thunderball set-pieces of 120 kilometres per hour which he would unleash when he first arrived in Chamartín.
Cristiano has almost exclusively taken Madrid’s free-kicks at a distance of 18 to 30 metres out from goal. Xabi Alonso, Isco, Modric and Di María generally take the indirect free-kicks (the now-departed Mesut Özil was sometimes handed the task of taking direct ones – notably scoring against Borussia Dortmund in last season’s Champions League). But now CR7 faces new competition – the ‘Knuckleball’ – the speciality free-kicks devised by Gareth Bale. The ‘Knuckleball’ takes its name from a baseball pitch. The ball moves with almost zero spin and takes an arbitrary, highly unpredictable flight path.
So who will take a direct free-kick should Madrid be awarded one this evening at El Madrigal? The right-footed Cristiano Tomahawk or the left-footed Bale Knuckleball? Cristiano is in a league of his own in terms of precision but Bale leaves rival goalkeepers literally rooted to the spot. The Wales international has analysed the technique used by Juninho Pernambucano and his new team mate, Cristiano. Logically, Bale would be in charge of taking free-kicks awarded on the right side of the field and Cristiano on the left side. We’ll see how they work it out between them later this evening.