Penalty Shootouts: Tricks of the Trade

With the knockout stages of the World Cup coming up, expect some excitement with penalty shootouts to determine results. And in that scenario, goalkeepers and strikers play plenty of mind-games with each other.

Updated: June 27, 2014 16:18 IST
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The goalkeeper and striker play plenty of mind games when it comes to shootouts.

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Paris: The penalty shootout is a mind game -- and here are some of the favourite ploys:


Watch for goalkeepers with wobbly legs and a goal-line jiggle, all intended to distract the striker. The tactic is also helped by fluorescent or bat-winged jerseys and outsized gloves, designed to make the keeper look bigger and the goalmouth smaller. (Read: Behind the Penalty, the Shrinks)


Scientists say red -- associated with danger or anger, which is why at times of stress we pay more attention to it -- is the most effective colour for keepers. Experiments at Chichester University, southern England, found that a keeper let in only 54 percent of penalties when wearing red, compared to 69 percent for yellow, 72 percent for blue and 75 percent for green.


A keeper classic: Go up and shake the striker's hand in a sporting gesture, pick up the ball and stroke or pat it -- and then put it back slightly off-centre. All this takes control away from the striker, forcing him to look at the keeper and abandon his preparatory rituals to readjust the ball.


Dutch researchers found that goalkeepers who positioned themselves just slightly off centre -- no more than 10 centimetres (four inches) off the centre of the line -- give a subconscious prompt to the striker as to where to place the ball.

The kicker is 10 percent likelier to go for the slightly wider side of the goal mouth, giving the keeper a useful predictive advantage.


Prep work can be a neat guide to the taker's preferences or a goalkeeper's weakness.

In the 2006 World Cup, German keeper Jens Lehmann cunningly tucked a piece of paper down his sock from his coach ahead of a quarterfinal shootout against Argentina. The note successfully predicted which way each striker liked to angle the short (low left, high right and so on). The crumpled paper later fetched a million euros ($1.35 million) for charity.


Time favours the striker. Researchers have found that if he takes the penalty within three seconds after the whistle has blown, he gets an element of surprise; if he waits at least 13 seconds, the agonising delay unsettles the keeper.

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  • Football
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