chapter  35
Evolving Penalty Kick Strategies: World Cup and Club Matches 2000–2002
Pages 2

It is important to understand the factors that limit performance both in kicking and in defending penalties so as to determine the best strategies to prepare for this often critical moment of the game. Relatively little research has addressed penalty kicks, however, and most of it has dealt with goalkeepers’ anticipatory strategies (Kuhn, 1988; Morris and Burwitz, 1989; McMorris et al., 1993; Williams and Burwitz, 1993; McMorris and Colenso, 1996; McMorris and Hauxwell, 1997; Franks et al., 1999; Savelsbergh et al., 2002). Kuhn’s (1988) study of European league club matches found that 20% (13/66) of penalties were saved and also identified two types of goalkeeper strategy. In the first (“late strategy”), which Kuhn called GA, goalkeepers initiated their dive at the moment the kicker made contact with the ball or immediately afterwards (23% or 15/66), whereas in the second (GB, or “early strategy”) goalkeepers dived before kicker-ball contact (77% or 51/66). Kuhn recommended the GA strategy, since it led to a higher probability of saving the penalty (GA: 60% saves vs. GB: 8%). Franks et al. (1999) analysed 138 penalty kicks in World Cups between 1982 and 1994, reported that 14.5% of the shots were saved. Without separating early and late diving goalkeepers, they concluded that expert goalkeepers overall were not successful in predicting ball direction because in their data goalkeepers went the same direction as the ball only 41% of the time. It is important to remember, however, that both goalkeepers and kickers have (and use) a third option down the middle, different from sideways, right or left. Thus, if goalkeepers were only capable of wild guesses one would predict less than 50% chance of a “correct anticipation” and, depending on the relative probabilities of the three options, perhaps even less than 40%.