What World Cup penalties tell us about shootouts, goalkeepers


It was considered a landmark moment for Canadian football. Within 10 minutes of his first men’s FIFA World Cup match since 1986, Canada Got his first goal in the men’s World Cup after conceding a penalty against belgium by VAR.

Although he is not a regular penalty taker for club or country the Bayern Munich forward Alphonso Davis stood over the ball, 12 yards Thibaut Courtois‘ target. But the 6-foot-7 goalkeeper had fully anticipated Davis’ shot; Drop down on your right side to swatt it. A despondent Davies held his head in his hands, Courtois puffed out his chest and celebrated with his teammates. Belgium would go on to win the game 1–0.

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Of the nine goals scored from 14 on-target penalty attempts so far in the group stage, the goalkeepers combined for five saves (the joint-most in the competition’s history): a save percentage of nearly 35% that has seen Davies , Argentina‘s Lionel Messi, poland‘s Robert Lewandowski, Saudi Arab‘s Salem Al-Dawsari And Ghana‘s jordan ayu Refused. For context, the 2018 World Cup saw only 13.6% of on-target penalties saved in the group stage (three saves on 22 attempts) and the 2014 World Cup saw a smaller percentage of 10% (one save on 10 attempts).

The goalkeeper has been saving more penalties than expected in this tournament, given the average quality of shots faced. Goalkeeper data scientist John Harrison said, “It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and whether goalkeepers continue to perform at an above-average rate in this World Cup.” “Or if by the end of the tournament we’ll see the Expected Goals (XG) pre-shot equal the XG post-shot plus the number of penalty goals.”

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optimal height for goalkeepers

Harrison is head of data at Goalkeeper.com, a website dedicated to goalkeeper statistics and analysis. He has created several data models to track goalkeeper actions on one-vs-one-and-one shot prevention and he uses those models to help determine the most optimal goalkeeping styles and techniques for each game. .

One data model he recently created was the penalty-saving model. It uses penalty power and velocity to determine the pre-shot and post-shot xG of each penalty kick – compared to historical Premier League penalty data since the 2015-16 season.

Harrison stresses that other penalty models normally assign the same scoring rate to each penalty—typically an xG between 78% and 82%—but because these models usually rely on the penalty’s velocity or placement in its calculation. They each give a similar scoring rate, whether aimed at the top corner or in the middle of the goal.

“You can’t just give every penalty with 82% probability because … one that is above shoulder height is rarely saved, so you would want to assign a value very, very close to one,” he said. . “Whereas let’s say a sidefoot penalty that’s like two yards from the corner with the ground won’t be as high as 80% of the time. It might be more like 70-something because … maybe it Will cramp under the goalkeeper even if they go in the right direction, but at this height a good punch will be saved.”

This may explain why a higher percentage of on-target penalties were saved in this group stage. Of the 14 penalties ever taken, all but four were hit in the lower third of the goal (about 2.67 ft/0.81 m or less) – and only one (Gareth Balepenalty of vs. United States of america) fell into the “impossible to save” zone of the Harrison model of 5% save probability.

The low height of penalties seen so far in Qatar is a departure from what we saw at the 2018 World Cup, where only nine of the 24 penalties taken in the group stage (41%) were on the lower third of the goal, compared to nine Didn’t leave the ground with him at all.

Part of the reason is simple: players want to keep their punts on target. Harrison said, “If you miss the target, you’ll never really score.” “Whereas, obviously, at least if you’re hitting it down, even if it’s a yard or two from the corner … if the keeper goes the wrong way you’re going to score anyway.”

Looking at the list of penalty takers in this World Cup, some are not regular takers (Canada’s Davis and spain‘s pheran torres), have in the past missed high-profile penalties by trying to go too high (Messi), or have been in teams that would not have been expected to score many goals at the World Cup (Al-Dawsari). These are all players who might not envision themselves hitting high, impossible-to-save areas of the goal without completely missing the net. So instead, he opted to keep his penalty short — reducing the risk of missing the target, but increasing the risk of his penalty being saved.

This would also explain why regular penalty takers prefer portugal‘s Cristiano Ronaldo And wales‘ Bale was more comfortable breaking his high penalty. ,[Shooting low is] A more risky strategy if you have the ability – as Bale and Ronaldo showed – to just run and hit it high and into an area with a high probability of goal,” Harrison said.

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Hercules Gomez praised Guillermo Ochoa after saving Robert Lewandowski’s penalty in Mexico’s draw with Poland.

beat the goalkeeper

But it’s not all for the taking; Goalkeepers have also played a part in why some shots are off target. “Some of the takers looked like they were using a kind of technique where they were just trying to wait [for] goalkeeper [to move] And go to the other side,” Harrison said.

This is something that has become more prominent in football recently, with the rising popularity of run-ups with hops and sudden changes of pace. Although some players have drawn criticism for their run-up, there is a tactical reason why they stop as suddenly as they do: they can trick the goalkeeper into telling which side they are going to react quickly. Huh.

For example, a fast, wide run-up means a shot on the opposite side of the player’s run-up (a left run-up can mean a shot on the player’s right, and vice versa.) This is because Because it’s difficult. For the player to twist their hips and place a shot accurately on the same side as if they were attacking the ball with a lot of speed from a wide angle.

Similarly, if a taker approaches the shot from a narrow angle, they may be more likely to shoot the ball across their body, as this is the natural flow of the foot – it allows them to open their hips and shoot in the opposite direction. takes more effort. As opposed to swinging your legs across your body as you run-up.

The speed of the taker’s run-up can also give some clues to the goalkeepers. If a player attacks a penalty with speed, there is likely to be a lot of power behind the shot and it will likely be airborne. So in this case, a goalkeeper might get into a diving motion a little earlier to give himself a better chance to stop a high shot.

On the other hand, if a player is slowly coming towards the ball the shot may lack momentum, so a goalkeeper may want to stay a little longer to get a better read on the run-up and where they plan to put the ball. Staying upright in a balanced shape also avoids giving away any clues as to where they plan to dive.

Just as goalkeepers are looking for clues in the players’ run-up, takers are looking for clues on the goalkeeper; And with a well-executed stutter or hop, a taker can trick the goalie into revealing his cards early.

i saw it bruno fernandesPunishment v. Uruguay, Fernandes finds the goalkeeper with a hop-step run-up Sergio Rochet To react quickly to his left gave him enough time to adjust his body so he could shoot to Rochette’s right.

Another example was Torres’ goal vs. Costa Rica, Torres attacked the penalty early on, and Keylor Navas tried to counter it by coming into his diving motion a little earlier than usual. But when Torres went into his hop-step, Navas was already in the process of moving to his left, so Torres was able to adjust and shoot in the opposite direction of Navas, where his momentum could not be stopped.

Even without major hop-steps, some players have been able to trick goalkeepers into revealing their cards early. For example, Messi was able to exploit the impatience of Saudi Arabian goalkeeper Mohamed Alouwais, tricking him into diving a bit too early with a slow run-up.

Messi swung Eloway to his left as he came into shooting motion, and this gave the Argentine enough time to adjust his body to shoot to the goalkeeper’s right.

Harrison said, “Once the keeper has already dived, if the taker is still making up their mind on a shot, they’re going to make sure they put it into the goal.” “They won’t care if it’s in the corner, as long as it’s on the keeper’s side.”

Potential Shootout Stars?

With the knockout rounds starting on Saturday, fans will be treated to a number of penalty shootouts – as three of the previous World Cups have seen four shootouts. While it is difficult to predict which goalkeepers could come out on top, there are a few names who could be heroes for their countries.

One of them is Unai Simon of Spain. Before going into the tournament, Simon had one of the best international penalty save percentages among World Cup debutants.

Although Simon seems to have a diving preference on his right (he goes to the right to face 6 of 9 penalties at Euro 2020), he has plenty of international experience and could play a role. In addition, Simon has a good repertoire of diving techniques. He is comfortably power-stepping to dive more across his goal, allowing him to reach targeted shots closer to the corners (like his saves versus goals). Italy‘s manual locate in Euro 2020); Dummy – stepping on one side and then diving on the other side (like his save vs. save). Switzerland‘s manual akanji, Or staying in the center of the goal if a player decides to shoot there.

“If you’re doing too many different things, those strikers who are trying to read you or those strikers who are thinking about penalties … they’ll get bogged down by it and won’t really know what’s going on.” What to do,” he said.

Another goalkeeper who could impress is Wojciech Szczecny of Poland, arguably the goalkeeper of the group stage. The 32-year-old has been in inspired form this tournament – ​​saving 18 of 20 shots on goal he faced, including two penalty saves, making him the first goalkeeper to save two non-shootout penalties at the World Cup Huh. Brad Friedel of the USA in 2002.

His penalty save against Messi in the last game of Group C was the best. Despite Messi hitting the shot with power and some height (in contrast to his first penalty against Saudi Arabia), Szczecny was able to stretch his right arm upwards and loft the hard shot wide of the target. Harrison called it “the best penalty ever saved” in this World Cup with an expected save rate of only 19%. But the most impressive thing about Szczęsny’s save is probably not the save itself, but the way Szczęsny was able to read Messi’s run-up before the shot.

Speaking to the Polish sports channel TVP after the game, Szczęsny said: “[I] Knew where Messi would shoot. Leo looks at the keeper on some penalties and pounces on others. I knew that if he was going to hit hard, it would be more to my left. i saw that he was not stopping [his run-up]So I went, I regained consciousness, I defended.”

It’s this kind of research and ability to accurately predict where a penalty taker might go based on his run-up, coupled with his unwavering confidence, that makes Szczęsny a strong screamer to be a potential shootout hero. Is.

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