Figure 1. Kicker’s view of the goalmouth, divided into 24 rectangles, and the convention to define the laterality of ball direction and goalkeeper movement.
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We analysed all 37 penalties kicked in World Cup 2002 and a random sample of 38 penalties from Club Matches 2000-2002 and compared to prior reports. The most striking difference was ball speed, with an average of 32 (±6) m.s−1 in the WC2002 (flight time to goalmouth only 344 ms!), much higher than the 26 (±3) m.s−1 from the CM2000-2002, and also higher than reported in previous studies (21 m.s−1 by Kuhn, 1988). The information available about “Fevernova”, the official ball of World Cup 2002, was that it is faster and improves accuracy (Roach, 2002). Perhaps higher ball speeds in the WC data here reported might, at least in part, be due to the technology of the new ball. On the other hand, higher ball speed in the 2002 World Cup, not only relative to Kuhn’s (1988) data, but also relative to CM2000-2002 (t=8.57; df=71; P<0.001), could also be a result of kickers deliberately hitting the ball very hard. One might then expect the high speed to be accompanied by relatively low accuracy, as pointed out by Lees and Nolan (2002).