Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
Most penaltykicks are scored with the head
For me, the best way to decide a drawn match is still taking penalties. I
heard people suggesting all kinds of nonsense: take a player off from both
teams every ten minutes and play on until a goal has been scored, for
instance. Or "let's count the corners", another one. In the past they used
to toss a coin, the man who ever introduced it on a footballfield should be
banned from soccer for life. No, I don't think there is a better way to do
it than from the spot, at least in final tournaments as there is no time to
replay the match. And on top of that, for what it's worth: I like it a lot!
It's great, exciting and sheer drama. I used to say: "It's where men get
separated from boys." But then my favourite player Franco Baresi missed in
the World Cup final 1994, and I never said it again. But then again,
penalties have always been one of my favourite aspects in soccer. Although I
was a goalkeeper in my active career, I took a lot of spotkicks and I saved
more than half of the penalties that were fired at me. It's mostly because I
studied the subject, I knew exactly what to do and what would give me the
best chance. That gave me a huge advantage.
What is often said by opponents of penaltyseries is, that it's all about
luck, that it's a lottery. That's not true, I am sure about it. It's the
talk of the losers. Taking a penalty has to do with having a decent shot and
being calm, and both are personal qualities. Of course, sometimes you're
lucky and sometimes you're not. Remember Bruno Bellone in 1986, when he hit
the post and Brazil-goalkeeper Carlos' back, before the ball only just
crossed the line. But luck and bad luck are a part of soccer, even a part of
life, you can never fully exclude it. A penaltykick is soccer. And there is
another point, which I have been telling people time and again: you can
increase your chances by doing your homework. No, I don't mean: practice it
over and over and you will never miss. It's about the question where to
shoot it. I can not believe my eyes when I see tons of players shooting it
low, where I always thought that you would have a better chance when you
shoot it high. Therefore, I examined all penaltyseries in World Cups and
European Nations Cups from 1982-2000. I wanted to be sure. Onehundred and
ninetyfour spotkicks confirmed my thoughts. All who ever missed a decisive
penalty, read carefully.
From those 194 penalties, twelve were blasted wide or against the woodwork.
From the 182 that remain, 128 were taken low. Only 93 of them, or 73%,
resulted in goals. Shooting it low in the middle turned out to be a rather
save idea (90%), but down right (seen from the position of the goalkeeper,
left) with 72% and down left (71%) were less successful by far. Still seven
out of ten players try to shoot it low. I can't understand why, because from
the 54 that were taken high, 53 ended in the net: more than 98%! The only
miss I registered was Socrates, who saw his shot beaten away by Joel Bats in
the same serie that I mentioned earlier. So it's easy: shooting high will
give you almost complete certainty about the result. Shooting low will leave
you in the cold almost once every third time. For you to decide. Would you
like 73% or 98%? Yes, I know, some will say: you can shoot it over the goal,
but not under the goal. That's true, but what I don't say is, that you have
to shoot it 5 centimetres from the post and just under the bar. No, no, fire
it in the upper half of the goal and goalkeepers will hardly ever touch it.
History is my witness.
Doing your homework will make it easier. Not only will it learn you what to
do, there is more. When a player knows what he has to do, and he has been
able to practice it, the pressure on him will ease. He knows that he can do
it, because he has done it several times before. So his chances will be even
better. Most players nowadays are not very interested in studying the game.
Why see your opponents on video, what is it good for? Give me my Nintendo,
give me my movie! And leave me alone, I'm lying on the couch! More than once
they don't even know the standings in the league, let alone they think about
what penalty will give them the best chance of scoring. Obviously they
think: when I'm standing there, on the spot, in front of 80.000 spectators
and carrying the world on my shoulders, I'll just try to do my best and
let's see what happens. Penaltykicks are a lottery, I will never to blame.
And there we go again, one miss after the other. I told you: most penalties
are scored with the head.
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