Scientists discover the best way to take a penalty

How to score the perfect penalty EVERY time! Scientists says players should always wait for the keeper to move before deciding where to shoot

  • Strikers can train themselves to be better at getting the goal past the goalkeeper
  • This skill can be nurtured to increase players’ penalty conversion, experts say
  • Implicit training methods can shorten the reaction times of strikers
  • This allows them to focus on shot accuracy, increasing their chances of scoring
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They think it’s all over, and it may well be now as scientists have found the best way for football players to train in order to take the perfect penalty.

According to the latest findings, waiting until the goalkeeper starts to move and aiming into the opposite corner is a skill that can be improved with training.

While the tried-and-tested Alan Shearer technique of shooting the ball into the top corner might work for some, scientists claim strikers can train themselves to be better at outwitting the goalie.

Simple methods can be used to shorten a footballers’ decision-making process and allow them to focus more on shot accuracy, researchers say.

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The University of Portsmouth delved into the mechanics of penalty taking ahead of the kick-off of the Premier League. Harry Kane (pictured) won the golden boot at the World Cup after converting several penalties

The University of Portsmouth delved into the mechanics of penalty taking ahead of of the kick-off of the Premier League, which will see previous champions Manchester United and Leicester City take to the turf at Old Trafford.

The latest research, which was led by Dr Martina Navarro, a lecturer in sport and exercise science, could lend a helping hand to penalty takers.

Dr Navarro said: ‘A successful penalty kick requires that the penalty taker produces an accurate, well-controlled kicking action and at the same time watches the goalkeeper and makes a decision to which side to kick the ball.

‘In other words, it is a defining feature of the goalkeeper-dependent strategy that a conscious decision is made while kicking.

‘This makes the goalkeeper-dependent strategy essentially a dual task.’

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She studied the two possible methods of taking a penalty by comparing different training techniques on 20 football players from the Netherlands and Brazil.

The first technique saw players pick the location of their shot independent of the goalkeeper’s movements, while the second saw players determine where they would aim after the keeper had started to move.

Overall, the first technique was less successful, as players were not looking to anticipate the keepers’ movers – leading to more saves.

Scientists said the second method, where the players try to aim in the opposite corner of the goal than the keeper, is the best approach and results in more goals.

The researchers developed a number of exercises to improve the speed players are able to read the goalkeeper’s movements.

In order to their success, the researchers recommend practising penalties and then gradually increasing the difficulty of the kick.

According to the scientists, this can be done by moving further away from the goal, or using a smaller target.

This reduces the amount of thinking required by the player during their run-up and allows them to focus on the accuracy of their kick.

They think it’s all over, and it may well be now as scientists have found the best way for football players to train in order to take the perfect penalty. According to research, waiting until the goalkeeper (pictured) moves and shooting the other way is a skill that can be improved

Facing up to a direct penalty can be difficult for goalkeepers, and scientists have found that implicit training methods shorten reaction times of the strikers and this allows them to focus on shot accuracy, increasing their chances of scoring 


The perfect formula for saving a penalty has been revealed by Dutch mathematicians.

Researchers came up with the complex formula after a review of previous studies into the art of saving penalties.

They modified an existing formula for ball catching that took information from ball flight into account by adding information about player intent available from studies that looked at the movements of penalty takers. 

The new formula, called an ‘affordance-based control model’, takes into account both where and when to dive and captures the constraints that must be satisfied to successfully save a penalty.

It includes the magnitude and force of a dive, and scales goalkeepers’ required actions to their maximum capabilities. 

The players were divided in two groups and took part in a practice session to improve kicking accuracy (without a goalkeeper) and then in a post-test in order to examine the accuracy of their penalty kick performance (including a decision to kick to the side opposite the goalkeeper’s dive). 

Before the World Cup kicked off this summer, Dutch mathematicians created a new way to look at penalty saves that factors in a goalkeeper’s speed, position and where the taker aims the ball. 

The complex formula tells a keeper where to look to increase their chances of saving a penalty.

Researchers said their work could help goalkeepers prepare for penalty shootouts before key games – although they are likely to need a maths degree to understand it.

The equation takes into account the goalkeeper’s perpendicular speed or velocity (VGK), where the ball crosses the line (XB) and his starting position (XGK).

This is divided by the time available before the kicker strikes the ball (TTCPT) and the period it is in flight (TTCB).

The Dutch team say it will enable goalkeepers to time their dives perfectly – which is key to saving a penalty.

It takes the average goalkeeper about 0.6 seconds to reach to his left or right at full stretch – and a full second out their stretch hand.

This leaves little time to take in visual cues such as the ball-flight pattern and its trajectory.

The formula highlights just how important it is for goalkeeper to watch the actions of a player during the run-up.

Study lead author Dr John van der Kamp, a behavioural scientist at Vrije Universty in Amsterdam, told MailOnline: ‘If the formula is correct, then it tells the goalkeeper where he should look to increase his chance [of saving a penalty].

‘This will be different for every goalkeeper depending on how fast they are. This also suggests that training a goalkeeper’s agility can help stopping penalties.’ 

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