Science explains how American soccer star Carli Lloyd made the shots that clinched the Women’s World Cup

Tanya Lewis
Business Insider
carli lloyd us japan final
carli lloyd us japan final

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
David Beckham isn't the only one who knows how to bend a ball.

Soccer star Carli Lloyd showed off her ball control skills yesterday in the US women's team's world cup victory against Japan.

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In the first 16 minutes of the game, Lloyd scored three of the US team's five goals. That included an amazing shot she volleyed into the net from midfield. The secret to her mad curveball skills comes down to simple physics.

Here's a clip of Lloyd's stunning midfield goal, complete with the spectator's stunned reaction:


As "Physics Girl" Dianna Cowern explains in a YouTube video on the physics of soccer, kicking a soccer ball on one of its sides is what gives it spin.

As the ball spins, it drags a thin layer of air around it. Air flowing in the same direction the ball is spinning gets deflected around it:

Meanwhile, air flowing opposite the ball's spin slows down but keeps moving straight:

This creates a net airflow in one direction, so the ball moves in the opposite direction:

It comes down to Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In other words, two objects pushing against each other will feel equal and opposite forces — just as a rocket expelling gas downward is pushed upward. Since the air slows down on one side of the ball, it causes air pressure to build up on that side, which pushes the ball in the other direction. This is known as the Magnus Effect.

Soccer players make use of this phenomenon all the time. As many probably know, kicking the ball with the inside of the right foot makes it curve to the left, while kicking the with the outside of the right foot makes it curve to the right. And kicking the bottom of the ball with the top of the foot creates backspin, which makes it curve upwards — as Lloyd did with her epic midfield goal.

So there you have it: Physics helped the US women's team win the world cup. That, plus a little skill and hard work!

Watch the full YouTube video here:

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