Giving it the swerve

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Followers of Esquire’s Twitter feed will know that we’re not exactly enamoured with the 2010 World Cup thus far. The depressing dearth of decent long-range shooting at the tournament has been what’s got us particularly vexed, although it could just as easily be the lack of goals, exciting football and skill on show.

The Jabulani ball from adidas has come in for an enormous amount of criticism, although FIFA should take equal blame given they presumably sanctioned the production of a football that boasts a truer flight than any previously made. And that, it seems to us, is the problem: who wants a ball that only flies straight?

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We have become so accustomed to players bending shots, curling passes, unleashing dipping free-kicks and dinking chipped through balls that spin and check like an expertly struck golf ball landing on a green, that to be suddenly presented with a spectacle that contains none of these has left us feeling bereft.

These are the skills that make modern football exciting to watch and go some way, if not even remotely close to all, towards explaining why the game’s top exponents earn so much bloody money - and why it costs us so bloody much to watch them doing it in the flesh.

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So why, in the quadrennial gathering of the planet’s best players, do we have a World Cup ball that negates these skills and subtle nuances? Swerve, as the video clips below demonstrate, has long been an essential weapon in the arsenal of the game’s best players. And watching them making the ball move all ways – left, right, up and down – is why billions of us tune in to watch.

So here, as part of our ongoing protest at the way long-range shooting and swerve appear to have been outlawed at this World Cup, we present our top five classic bending, long-range thunderbolts. And remember, all these were scored with balls that didn’t make extravagant claims on ballistics, trajectory or levels in-flight oscillation...

No.1 Tony Curry. Leeds v Southampton, 1978

No.2 Roberto Carlos. Brazil v France, 1997

No. 3 Johnny Rep. Holland v Scotland, 1978

No. 4 Gianfranco Zola. Chelsea v Tottenham, 2002

No. 5 Norman Whiteside. Manchester United v Everton, 1985