A direct free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football following a foul. Unlike an indirect free kick, a goal may be scored directly against the opposing side without the ball having first touched another player.
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team when a player commits a penal foul, for example pushing or tripping an opponent. However, if the offence was committed within the opposition team's penalty area, the kick becomes a penalty kick.
The kick is taken from where the foul occurred, unless that was within the fouled team's goal area, in which case it may be taken from anywhere within the goal area. The ball must be stationary prior to being kicked. Opponents must remain 9.15 m (10 yards) from the ball (and also outside of the penalty area if the kick is taken from within the defending team's penalty area) until the ball is in play.
In order to keep the initiative a quick free kick is sometimes taken without waiting for the opposing players to retire from the 9.15 m (10 yard) radius.
The ball becomes in play as soon as it is kicked and moves, unless the kick was taken from within the kicking team's penalty area, in which case it is in play once it has passed directly beyond the penalty area.
A goal may be scored directly from a direct free kick, but only against the opposing side (i.e. an own goal may not be scored). However, should the ball directly land in the own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team. A player may be penalised for an offside offence committed from a direct free kick.
There are three primary techniques used with direct free kicks. First, the player taking the direct free kick may blast the ball as hard as he can, usually with the laces of the boot. This method is used by Roberto Carlos and Robin Van Persie. Alternatively, some players try to curl the ball around the keeper, with the inside of the boot. Free kick specialists such as Juninho Pernambucano, Ronaldinho, David Beckham employ this method. Curling the ball is a hard skill to learn but when executed, can be the most effective way of scoring in a match. Additionally, certain free kick specialists will choose to kick the ball with minimal spin, making the ball behave unpredictably in the air. Juninho Pernambucano and Cristiano Ronaldo utilize this method regularly. Free kick takers may also attempt to cross the ball to their centre backs or strikers in order to get a header on goal, especially if the position of the free kick is close to the wings.
Opposing players must retire the required distance as stated above. Failure to do so may constitute misconduct and be punished by a caution (yellow card).
It is an offence for the kicker to touch the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player; this is punishable by an indirect free kick to the defending team from where the offence occurred, unless the second touch was also a more serious handling offence, in which case it is punishable by a direct free kick or penalty kick, as appropriate.
Often the defending side erects a "wall" of players standing side-by-side as a barrier to the shot. A kicker who has the skill to curl the ball around the wall is at a distinct advantage.