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Will World Cup 2014 be ruled by Dry Leaf kicks?

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What is a Dry-Leaf kick, you may well ask. The answer is that the moniker is a literal translation from the Portuguese--Folha Seca--meaning a dry leaf. As anyone who has taken a fall season walk on a tree-lined path well knows, a dry leaf in flight soars and then dips unpredictably. Imagine if you could routinely get a football to fly toward goal with that unpredictability. You would be the scourge of all goalkeepers.

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Enabling and controlling that type of flight was what Brazilian and Real Madrid (1959-60) midfield maestro Valdir Pereira, better known as Didi, said his shots could do. The Golden Ball winner, for the best player at the 1958 World Cup, then spent a post-1962 World Cup lifetime showing young players how to replicate his original shot.

Today, any number of top players has the Folha Seca in his arsenal and among those who do are stars who could tip the scales in their countries' favor with just such a free-kick in a crucial match. Among the best are Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Italy's Andrea Pirlo, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, Brazil's Neymar, and Uruguay's Diego Forlan.

The kick is so spectacular and deadly when done at the highest levels that Ronaldo's version has been scientifically studied.

So in a World Cup with so many spectacular match ups—Spain-Netherlands, Germany-Portugal, Italy-England—will a crucial free kick be the difference maker?

In World Cup history there have been 2208 goals scored, but how many of those have been free-kick goals and how many of those goals were game clinchers are not statistics FIFA can readily provide. But at 2.9 goals scored per match, all time, it is a good bet that a free-kick goal will play a major role in any match.

Since the best free kick takers are also Folha Seca experts, don’t be surprised if, whatever the tournament's outcome may be, this World Cup becomes the tourney that was ruled by the Dry Leaf kick.

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