How to Shoot a Knuckleball in Soccer?

How to Shoot a Knuckleball in Soccer?

The knuckleball, also known as the “floating ball”, in soccer is one of the most challenging types of shots a player can master.

Why is the knuckleball so effective in soccer? It is unpredictable for a goalie. We’ll explain the science below.

The key to an effective knuckleball shot is to practice intentionally! The greats like Cristiano Ronaldo, whom many consider the king of the knuckleball shot in soccer, manage to mess up sometimes.

If you happen to work on it and execute it perfectly, the knuckleball will seem to suddenly dip while in mid-air. This makes it unpredictable for goalkeepers to stop.

Now, you might be thinking that if even the pros have a difficult time executing the knuckleball in soccer, “How could I do it?”

In this article, we’ll walk you through how to shoot a knuckleball in soccer!

What is a Knuckleball in Soccer?

First things first, what is a knuckleball in soccer? Similarly to baseball, soccer also has its own version of the knuckleball. In soccer, a knuckleball is a ball that is kicked and followed by an unpredictable, zigzagging trajectory.

The soccer ball doesn’t have much of a rotation – if any at all – which causes it to dip or go left to right in an instant.

This unpredictability makes the knuckleball shot one of the most difficult to defend against.

You will need to have control when transferring power from your foot to the ball. It is also crucial to position your foot properly so you won’t give the ball unwanted spin.

The lack of spin is the one secret to an effective knuckleball. But, it’s always easier said than done.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Shoot the Knuckleball

Before we start, it is recommended that you use an official soccer ball for practicing this type of shot.

Most soccer balls that you find at major online and offline retailers are made out of synthetic leather. This is what you will want to use.

Unlike rubber soccer balls, official balls can provide you with more consistent results, which means you will more likely be able to replicate the knuckleball during a game.

Step 1) Run up to the ball

It is recommended to start your run-up at around 4 to 6 steps away, and a step slightly to the left or right of the ball depending on which foot you will be using to shoot.

You can also do what Cristiano Ronaldo does. Run up to the ball slightly on your toes so you can prepare yourself to connect with the ball with the right part of your foot.

Step 2) Position your supporting foot

Practice until you can naturally position your supporting foot at around six inches to the side of the ball where you will be kicking it.

You will need to practice this step quite a lot until you can do it without thinking.

The steps mentioned are just guidelines. You don’t want to overthink these steps. It’s better to approach the ball as naturally as possible.

Step 3) Strike the center of the ball

This is the most important step. In order to effectively shoot a knuckleball, the ball cannot have rotation.

To accomplish this, practice until you can effectively hit the ball just below the center point. To help you practice, face the valve of the ball towards you so you can see where you need to hit the ball.

Also, make sure that you contact the ball with your instep or laces. You need to lock your ankle just before the point of contact to prevent getting injured.

Step 4) Establish proper body posture

If you lean back too far, there is a high probability that the ball will rise more than you want.

Ensure that you have a strong posture but lean slightly forward over the ball as you approach to kick the ball.

This will give you more control over the distance and trajectory you want the ball to travel. An effective knuckleball shot in soccer should be more of a line drive than a floater.

Step 5) Perfect the follow-through

If you want to successfully pull off the knuckleball shot, you should perfect the follow-through.

Right after hitting the ball, continue moving your body in the same direction as the ball. This will impart the momentum of your body weight into the ball.

The History of the Knuckleball

According to the official records, the earliest known use of the knuckleball shot was way back in the 50s and can be attributed to legendary professional Brazilian player, Didi (Waldyr Pereira).

However, his version of the knuckleball was quite different mainly because of the way soccer balls were made back then.

The modern knuckleball gained popularity back in 2006 when Adidas changed the way they manufactured their soccer balls.

The new balls used fewer panels and added more surface dimples that made them more aerodynamic.

During that time, Juninho Pernambucano, a professional free-kick expert, became the first pro player to do modern knuckleball as described in the next section.

He put it to effective use regularly in Ligue 1 during his prime years playing professionally.

Today, you will see players intentionally shoot a knuckleball to throw off the defenders and goalie. In slow motion, the work is a ball of art!


As you can see, the steps are quite simple on the web but the knuckleball shot is difficult to master.

You will need to practice it as often as you can without getting too frustrated. The reality is, when you first try it there will be times the ball rotates, your foot hits the ground first or you lean back too much. The key is to stick with it until you get momentum. From here, it’s the little tweaks that will make the biggest impact.

The knuckleball in soccer has become a popular technique for free kicks, as the unpredictable movement of the ball can make it difficult for the goalkeeper to quickly evaluate.

In today’s game, the knuckleball remains an effective type of shot that is difficult for keepers to anticipate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a knuckleball in soccer?

A knuckleball in soccer is a type of free-kick or shot where the ball is struck in such a way that it travels through the air with unpredictable movements. The ball’s flight path is erratic and difficult for the goalkeeper to predict and catch due to the lack of spin on the ball.

Who has the best knuckleball in soccer?

Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been an effective goal scorer with his knuckleball.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

Find a Club Near You

Be in the know for everything soccer in the U.S. 🥳️

SoccerNovo was built out of pure passion for the game of soccer. Our team provides helpful and entertaining content that helps players become better and enjoy the game more.
© 2023 SoccerNovo, LLC. Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.