Monday, April 20, 2009

Video Analysis of a Soccer Penalty Kick

This weekend was full of sporting action, Boston Marathon, NBA playoffs and much more. We also enjoyed watching some major upsets in the FA cup soccer semifinal games played at Wembley stadium in England. For those of you not aware the FA cup is the premier soccer cup competition in England and is watched throughout most of the world.
In this years semifinals, we saw Chelsea defeat Arsenal on an unforgivable goalkeeping error, but in The Video Analysis of Sports this week we want to look at the other game where Everton upset the favorites Manchester United on penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks sound easy. The striker takes a shot at the goal with only the goalkeeper to save it and all the measurements are in the strikers favor. The international goal is 24 feet wide by 8 feet high, the penalty spot is 36 feet from the goal and the goalkeeper cannot move forward off his line before the penalty kick is taken. This means that he cannot close the angle.

Penalty kicks however are not as simple as they sound, especially at the end of a game in order to break a tie. There is a lot of pressure on the striker, he or she is expected to score the penalty and if he misses his team may be eliminated from the competition. In international and pro level soccer we see strikers often trying to fool the goalkeeper into diving in one direction and then try to shoot to the other side of the goal. When they score this way we all admire their skill and deception, but if you want to make sure of scoring then there are some specific techniques to use and we will discuss them here.

Below is some video of the penalty shootout between Manchester United and Everton on April 19, 2009. You can see evidence of much of what we will discuss today.

Berbatov (the 2nd penalty taker) and Ferdinand (the 4th penalty taker) both of Manchester United try to deceive the goalkeeper but do not use good technique to shoot and see their penalties saved.

We see some examples of good penalty kicks in this game too. Vaughan of Everton takes the best penalty of this particular shootout as you will see in the video. So what makes this a good penalty. Vaughan does everything right here. He wants to place the ball in the top corner of the goal net with as much power as possible. By aiming for the top corner with power he reduces the chances of the goalkeeper making a save even if he does pick to dive in the correct direction (which he does in this case).

What about technique? Well Vaughan does that correctly too. Here are some of the points to look out for as you watch the video above. Pause the video if you can and look closer at some of these points.
  1. He picks the direction he is going to kick the ball and does not change his mind. Changing his mind might cause a miss kick and as he is going for the top right corner with power he is not concerned about the goalkeepers decision.
  2. He runs up and plants his support leg (left leg) on the side of the ball with the toes of his left foot pointing in the direction he is going to shoot. This gives him the support base he needs so that..
  3. He keeps his head down looking at the ball as he strikes it. This will keep the ball from flying to high. If he lifts his head, he is likely to get his foot under the ball and may lift it over the top of the goals.
  4. He kicks the ball with the inside toe part of his boot (see time 4:28 in the video). He does this in order to create spin on the ball. He actually aims at the goal post but uses the spin to turn the ball back into the goal net. If he kicks the ball with his laces he may be able to create more power, but he will not be able to create spin and therefore he would need to aim more directly into the goal, giving the goalkeeper a chance to save or running the risk of missing wide.
  5. He follows through with his kicking leg, bringing it up to waist height while keeping his head down. This allows him to produce the power he needs to ensure the goalkeeper has no chance of saving this penalty.

So thank James Vaughan of Everton for that real situation clinic in taking a penalty kick in soccer. We are looking forward to a fantastic FA cup Final on May 30, 2009 between Chelsea and Everton. Hopefully there will be no penalty kicks to decide the champions, but if there are you know what to look for.

Let us know what you think of this particular penalty shootout or if you have any tips or tricks of your own for penalty taking. Comment on this blog or send an email to or .


D Rizzardo said...

Hey Guys

Very interesting.
While a PK to the "upper V" is very good and exciting and virtually impossible to stop, often we coach to take PKs to aim just inside either post. The reason for this is that you are less likely to blast ball over the post, you can shoot a more direct and therefore more powerful shot off the laces (as you noted, placing bend on the ball reduces force applied), and theoretically, that is one of the hardest locations for a keeper to reach.
Since your analysis is on motion and technique, lets flip the coin and look at this from the keeper's perspective since we have indicated that this type of kick can be a bit easier from the kicker's perspective.
While stopping a shot into the upper V is next to impossible if the ball is struck perfectly and with pace, the keeper still has his jumping momentum in his "favor" - meaning he is jumping mostling upward and in the same direction as the ball is traveling (up towards the corner).
When a player places a faster paced direct shot at the low post, the keeper has to perform an arching dive to the post, using his legs to get any reasonable pounce at the ball and fully extending himself to stop the shot.
Think of it this way, is it easier from a standing position to extend your arm at an angle to reach something above your head or to quickly bend sideways at the waist and reach something on the ground?
I guess another way to look at this is pretending you are an infield in baseball. Would it be easier for you to leap sideways to catch a line drive or arch over to get a worm burning grounder in the hole?
Thus, to flip this around, think like a keeper. He or she has to virtually guess the correct direction to have any chance of stopping a well placed PK. Now, once you guess, if the ball is waist height or above, things start to get easier.
But the best keepers in the world do one thing that you are advocating - they study tons of film to learn the tendencies of players they know who will be in the first 5 to take PKs. They learn these tendencies and try to slightly increase their odds of guessing right by studying the slightest hints in body language - much like a skilled poker player would pick up on any tells.
I hope this helps - I think a neat follow up would be analyzing Tim Howard's, Edwin Van Der Saar's, Petr Cech, or even Gigi Buffon's techniques at stopping PKs.

Another soccer related issue would be fun to see you analyze is the best headers in the world. If you watch AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi head home his 2nd goal versus Torino this past weekend it is beautiful. "Super Pippo" manages to add a heck of a lot of pace to a slower paced chip from teammate David Beckham. Its amazing the amount of pace he applies to the ball once it contacts his head with much of that energy stemming from his neck and his torso.

andyscar65 said...

Have you ever seen a goalkeeper save 4 out of 5 PKs in a championship game. My son did that in 2008 OAC championship. In the PK shootout he saved the first three and the final shot to win the OAC Championship for Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. It was Capital's first OAC Tournament Championship and first ever NCAA Div. III appearance. We have the video if interested. But 4 out of 5 in a PK shootout to win a Championship.

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