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Watching a match now, the forward was running toward the goal line, halfway toward the corner, protecting the ball, looking for a corner kick.

He was obviously fouled by the defender, pushed into the ball and it resulted in a goal kick.

I am wondering, if a foul was called (it was outside of the box), where would the free kick be placed?

What further muddies the water on this for me, I watched an old women's International match recently where a foul was called in the 6m box. Instead of a penalty kick, a free kick was placed on the 18m line. This is why I'm wondering if referees would have discretion to place a free kick elsewhere in the first example.

Here is the video queued up to that women's match.

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The free kick awarded for a offence anywhere on the field is taken from the place where the foul occurred. It doesn't matter how close to the corner that is.

There are some exceptions,

  • a direct free kick to the attack inside the penalty area is a penalty kick

  • an indirect free kick to the attack inside the goal area is taken on the long edge of the goal area closest to where the offence occurred

  • a free kick to the defence inside the goal area may be taken anywhere inside the goal area

  • free kicks for offences off the field or involving non-players may have other placements according to Laws 3 or 12

Your confusion regarding USA-BRA (W) is easily resolved. The free kick is awarded for playing in a dangerous manner (PIADM). This is an offence which does not involve physical contact, and which is sanctioned with an indirect free kick.

It does not become a penalty kick (see first bullet point) but because it occurred inside the goal area, it is moved back to the line (see second bullet point).

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