Connect in the back of the net

The European championship in France looks to have finally up picked momentum after a slow start in the opening round of group matches.

Seven days into the tournament and teams have already started aligning themselves, with the usual suspects looking odds on to qualify into the round of 16.

Albeit the scarcity of goals, we have been treated to some top drawer strikes during the first week of Euro 2016.

Here are the top four free-kick specialists in the tournament. The list contains played that have either scored from free kicks or are celebrated free kick specialists likely to score in the course of the tournament.

 

Gareth Bale

It’s not by mere chance that Gareth Bale is among the leading goal scorers after only two games into the European showdown.

A seasoned goal scorer for both club and country, the 26-year old has made the most of chances despite being isolated for the vast majority of the first two matches- largely due to proper defensive organization of opposing numbers.

The Real Madrid forward opened his goal scoring account of the season with a sumptuous free-kick against Slovakia. Although the goal was cancelled out by Ondrej Duda, Wales went on to secure all three points courtesy of a Hal Robson-Kanu winner.

It was to be double celebration for Bale and he went into the annals of history by becoming the first British player to score a direct free kick in a European Championship finals game.

The Welshman was at it again as he scored a sensational strike during his side’s 2-1 loss to arch rivals England, a goal that Joe Hart could have done better.

 

Eric Dier

The Tottenham prodigy scored a sublime free-kick during England’s opening match against Russia at the Stade Velodrome last Saturday.

The Three Lions looked on course to a cruising victory, but were to be denied a win after the Russians equalized deep into injury time.

Without taking away anything from Dier, the strike was exquisite, but the arrangement of the Russian wall during the set piece was a disaster waiting to happen…and it did.

 

Dimitri Payet

Payet has become a household name in the Premier League following his breakthrough season with West Ham.

Despite being virtually unproven and relatively unknown, the midfielder has repeated his illustrious run of form with Les Bleus and is in fact among the leading goal scorers in the Euros with two goals from two matches.

His goals may not have been from free kick set pieces, but his long range efforts that bore the two goals have been just as impressive.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

There can be no listing of free-kick specialists without the mentioning of Cristiano Ronaldo. Being in Group F, Portugal have only played once: a 1-1 draw with Iceland.

The 3-time FIFA World Player of the Year has yet to make his mark in France, perhaps due to fatigue after their record breaking eleventh Champions League triumph.

With or without the goals, Cristiano Ronaldo still remains the most vicious free-kick specialist in the European Championships.

 

Written by Brian Humphrey

Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum

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