Penalties are one of the most bizarre and unpredictable aspects of football. Over 40 games in all major international competitions have been decided by a penalty shoot-out. It is widely considered one of the most pressured and challenging moments for a player, Glenn Hoddle went as far as to describe it as ‘Football hell!’ Many people believe that if your team is in a penalty shoot-out, you just have to hit the target and hope the keeper guesses the wrong way, that there is nothing anyone can do about it. However, recent research has proven there is more than meets the eye when it comes to penalties, because there are ways to prepare and give you the advantage.

Goalkeepers undisputedly have a major role in penalties. According to ‘Science of Soccer’ 15% of all penalties are saved, and roughly 85% go in-of 286 games in the top leagues around the world. However, goalkeepers are reported to guess right 40% of the time (Bar Ali et al). Following on from this, if they do guess right increases their chances by 30% (shutoutuniversity); this is a huge jump up, and knowing this improves your mind-set. An unusual stat is that keepers jump to the left or the right 94% of the time (Bar Eli et al), and in answer to this 30% of penalties are down the middle. All of these facts and stats can greatly affect the odds and give the keeper the edge. Although, however much you prepare penalties were designed for the takers to win, and the goalkeeper will only have around 500 milliseconds to save a ball going at 70mph.

To find the so-called ‘perfect penalty’, it is best to look at the success rates of each area. In terms of the lower half of the goal, 57% of penalties on average are shot within this area with an 80% conversion rate (Science of Soccer online). However, this is pretty poor comparatively as it is below the average of 85% total success, whereas with the 13% hit in the top third all of these went in. It is crucial that penalty takers don’t have a favourite side as they will become too predictable. Unfortunately, there is a large favourite, 40% of the penalties that were taken were aiming towards the bottom right. I believe that this is because most players are right footed meaning the easiest option is to open up into the nearest corner. So now, where should you hit it? Well, with 87% in the centre and a 100% success rate in the top third, the perfect penalty is in the middle in the top third. Although, it has to be taken into consideration that if it is in the middle and the keeper guesses right it is reported by ‘Science of Soccer online’ that the goalkeeper has a 60% save ratio rather than 16%.

Some other interesting, crucial deciding factors, other than saving and taking include: in international tournaments since 1988, the team going first has won 75% of the matches (Prozone). In addition to this teams who miss first miss 81.2% of shootouts. Upon considering this, you should always try and go first and put your best takers up first. This is because teams needing to score miss 85.6% of matches, an overwhelming amount.

There is one thing that causes players to miss, other than technique,and that is emotion. Your heart rate goes up, making your thoughts negative, and your technique becomes worse as you are focused on just not missing, this means you are more likely to lose. When it comes to emotions, you shouldn’t think too much; it should be natural as practice makes perfect.