Inter's Marcelo Brozovic changed free-kicks forever with tactic vs Barcelona in 2018

Brozovic's iconic block.

Lionel Messi, Kevin De Bruyne and Ronaldinho are just three of the players who have scored free-kicks by shooting underneath the wall over the years.

It can be so difficult to stop the world’s best players from scoring set-pieces from outside the penalty area that those brave souls who stand in the firing line are required to jump as soon as contact is made.

However, that inevitably led to some of the most skilled technicians in the business exploiting this instinct by proceeding to shoot along the ground with the unsuspecting wall duly getting out of its way.

Anti-free-kick tactics

Or at least, that used to be the case, because it’s not for no reason that the sight of free-kicks being scored underneath the wall is becoming less and less common.

It all comes down to the fact that teams are now going to ridiculous lengths in order to stop every kind of free-kick from being a threat whenever they commit a foul anywhere near their own box.

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Messi scores for Barcelona.

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You only have to look at the extraordinary lengths that some La Liga defences went to in order to thwart Messi latterly, going so far as positioning players on the line and dropping deep towards the six-yard box, to get the picture.

But if any particular anti-free-kick technique has gained infamy over recent years then it’s the infamous ‘draught excluder’ that Messi himself actually pulled off once for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi laying behind the wall.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group A – Paris St Germain v Manchester City – Parc des Princes, Paris, France – September 28, 2021 Paris St Germain’s Lionel Messi lies on the pitch to defend a free-kick REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Laying behind the wall

We are, of course, talking about the method used to prevent free-kick takers from shooting underneath the wall by positioning a player to lie on their side behind it so that the defenders can still jump.

It’s a strange, though no less amusing, phenomena that has become increasingly common at the highest level with the silly sight of players taking on the role of a human plank starting to look bizarrely, well, normal.

Nevertheless, it’s actually become such an effective tactic at deterring players from shooting underneath the wall that we never actually really get to see it directly preventing a goal.

And that’s why we just love revisiting the incident that made the ‘draught excluder’ famous in the first place, perpetuating the trend that has since swept across the beautiful game.

Inter's Brozovic vs Barcelonaa.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group Stage – Group B – FC Barcelona v Inter Milan – Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – October 24, 2018 Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic reacts REUTERS/Albert Gea

Brozovic makes the move famous

While we don’t profess to know who exactly started the craze, we do know that it was Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic who first made it truly mainstream for deploying it in the Champions League four years ago.

During a 2-0 group stage away at Barcelona, Brozovic delivered what he coined as the ‘crocodile move’ not to deter Suarez from taking a cheeky free-kick, but to literally block it in the manner we just don’t see enough.

Cannily not posturing himself as a human log until the very last moment, the Croatian star can be seen brilliantly diving into position to deflect Suarez’s goal-bound effort away from danger.

So for anybody left scratching their heads whenever they see a footballer settling into the now commonplace ‘draught excluder’ position, just be sure to direct them to Brozovic’s fantastic case study down below:

You love to see it.

A trendsetter

At the end of the day, there’s good reason to think that free-kicks were never the same again once Brozovic pulled that off on the world stage, platforming to a bigger audience than ever the cheeky tactic.

So while he’s most certainly not the originator of the ploy, the fact that he provided a blueprint for how it can work so effectively for everyone to see undoubtedly played a huge role in it taking over the sport.

Every fan left chuckling to themselves in the terraces as their winger settles into the ‘paint me like one of your French girls’ position most certainly owes a debit to Brozovic’s Camp Nou antics.

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It’s just a shame that we might never see the ‘draught excluder’ used so effectively ever again because the Inter star seems to have scared everybody off.

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