VIDEO: The physics behind two great goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

Auckland’s David Grey has studied more than 1,000 goals scored by elite footballers to uncover the science behind the art of a curl shot. He’s been following the FIFA Women’s World Cup for more examples of the curl shot.

By David Grey

Dutch wingback Esmee Brugts scored not one but two magnificent curl shots in the Netherlands’ 7-0 victory over Vietnam in the group stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

It’s football folklore that a perfectly-executed curl shot is unsavable.

With optimal power, curl and precision, goalkeepers are hard-pressed to prevent the ball nestling into the far corner of the net.

It would seem Brugts has mastered the curl shot, this holy grail of goalscoring.

Brugts twice cut in from the left to deliver an inch-perfect curl shot from beyond the 18-yard box, both times leaving the goalkeeper helpless, rooted to the spot.

Brugts will play for the Netherlands against Spain in their quarter-final in Wellington.

Main photo: Esmee Brugts celebrates her second goal against Vietnam.


Game to be played on Friday August 11, 2023

Spain v Netherlands
Sky Stadium, Welington, 1pm (NZT)

Watch Brugts’ curl shots against Vietnam

Her first goal is scored at 1′ 14″ in the edited highlights. Her second goal is at 2′ 37″.

Using match analysis, physics research, aerodynamics principles, and a bit of help from our old friend Pythagoras, I’ve arrived at a physicist’s blueprint for a perfect, unsavable curl shot.

By my calculation an optimal curl shot should have an initial ball velocity of at least 68 kilometres per hour and an imparted lateral spin of 2-10 revolutions per second.

A right-footed curl shot of these characteristics will deviate sideways through the air to reach its target on average 2.5 metres to the left of its initial aim.

A player can choose to prioritise either power (a large initial velocity) or curl (a large spin rate) within the optimal range in their shot.

So how close to perfection were Brugts’ two brilliant curl shots?

According to FIFA’s video analysis, Brugts’ first goal had an initial ball velocity of 95 kilometres per hour and a spin rate of 3.6 revolutions per second.

Her second-half strike was the most powerful goal of the tournament at that stage, according to FIFA commentary. With an initial ball velocity of 104 kilometres per hour and a spin rate of 2.6 revolutions per second, Brugts favoured even more power (see Figure 1).

Contender for goal of the tournament

Linda Calcedo’s curl shot goal for Colombia against Germany is being touted as a contender for goal of the tournament.

READ MORE: Colombian curl shot a contender for goal of the tournament >>>>

David Grey

David Grey is an Auckland-based football researcher who coaches with the 18 Yard Club and plays as a striker for Northern League club Manurewa.

You can find his two-part special feature on the curl shot at the following links:

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