World Cup Penalty Shots: How to Know Who Will Win Them

When an event as big as the World Cup comes around, many non-regular fans naturally get caught up in the hoopla of the whole thing.  I mean, why wouldn’t they?  It’s probably the biggest event in the world, never-mind biggest sporting event

It’s hard not to get annoyed though when someone that you could describe as a “casual soccer fan” at best, acts like they have the all the low-downs on the sport you’ve followed, played in, and coached at your whole life…Mind you, I do the same with other sports that I’m a “casual fan” of as well so I’ll admit, I’m being a bit of a hypocrite when I say all this…

But one of the biggest things I hear is the ages old complaint against the infamous Penalty shoot-outs… But let’s be fair here, cause it ain’t just the casual observer who gets mad at games decided by PK’s, but also many regular soccer aficionados as well.

My answer to this rather obvious nonsense?

“Penalty Shoot-Outs are one of the greatest things in all of sports…Now shut your mouth.”

I mean, one need only go back in history to see all the drama and famous moments that PK’s have produced to see what I’m talking about.  PK’s to decide games (particularly games with high stakes) are beautiful, ugly, glorious, damning, delightful, shameful, fun, and terrifying all at the same time…

To top it off, people actually have the gall to say that PK’s are “all luck..”


You don’t have the intelligence to see that PK’s are all about who can handle the pressure better?  That’s not luck… That my amigo is called being the:

Most pressure packed scenario in all of sports…

Imagine doing the walk all the way from half-field to the penalty spot needing to score to keep your country’s hopes alive in the world cup final? Gosh… Now THAT’S pressure.

Alright alright, so now that you’ve hopped onto my band-wagon, and are all for Penalties, I will now enlighten you as to a couple of the key things you can look for (when watching PK’s) that may decide the winner… Cause let’s face it, one of these next 3 games has to have at least one Penalty shootout.  And remember; penalty shots are not about the luckiest team winning, they’re %75 about the team who can handle the pressure the best, %15 about technique and training, and %5 luck…

Ok, so let’s start out with some of the easier things to spot first.

Beginning with penalty shot placement.  First off, the easier shot for most players is their natural placement (which is across the body).  As such, a right footer about %60 of the time is going to go left (the goalie’s right).  Most players definitely feel more comfortable with that shot.

The other thing you need to know are some of the techniques (and methodologies) for taking PK’s.

Some players try to look at the Goal-Keeper the whole time and try to see where the keep goes so they can shoot the opposite way.  A great technique for sure, but one that also requires a lot of skill and also does not hold up under pressure as well (I may be speaking from personal experience here).  Another technique is to simply pick your spot and always go for it no matter what (good for less experienced players who don’t take many PK’s).

Another thing to know is that about %80 (I’m guestimating that percentage) of players shoot with their instep (inside of foot) when hitting PK’s.  Some super confident players (ala Alan Shearer) used to hit absolute bomb’s with their laces, but that requires a shiz-ton of confidence because naturally, a laces shot is much more likely to miss.  Now, that’s not to say that a professional who’s kicked a ball millions of times never misses the net with their instep. There have been numerous famous occasions of world-class players succumbing to the pressure and hitting the ball a mile over the cross-bar when they would literally hit the same shot 100 out of a 100 times in practice…

Alright, onto some of the psychological things to watch out for:

The walk up from center half to take your PK.  Is the player rushing?  Are they walking or jogging?  Do they look like they just want to get the PK over with?  Often players are simply wishing to get the PK over with as quickly as possible in order to get out of their stressful state.  These signs are telling, and often will give you a massive hint as to who’s going to come out on top later on…

What is the rest of their body language like?   Are they only looking at the ground?  Or is their posture upright, full of confidence?  Body language is a powerful indicator.  Simply watching body language will tell you how a player is feeling (confident or non-confident).

Are they intentionally placing ball on the penalty spot?  Or are they simply laying it down as quickly as possible?  Players that are confident, take their time placing the ball to get the perfect placement.  Players that are nervous and can’t handle the pressure place it quickly without thought to how the ball is positioned in the divot (the penalty spot always has a divot).  They simply want to get out of there as quickly as possibly.

The waiting players (players on field waiting at the halfway line) are either talking and encouraging each other or simply are dead quiet?  Proactive teams (with proactive players) think positively, not negatively.  They encourage and imagine success, not failure.  Watch the behaviours of the team’s that are watching from the half-way line.  Are they dead quiet with faces that look defeated and scared?  Or are they encouraging and pumping each other up while imagining success?

Which country throughout the years has embodied all these negative signs the most?

The winner is England.  England is famous for being the biggest chokers in PK’s in the history of international soccer.  Read any interviews done with the English players who were apart of those teams and you’ll see that they demonstrated all the negative habits I mentioned above.  Even their stars (players like Lampard and Gerrard) demonstrated incredibly negative behaviour in PK’s with England.

So don’t’ try and tell me PK’s are all luck, that’s utter rubbish.  England can attest to that. Ask Gareth Southgate who famously was made to take a PK years ago for England and missed.  Afterwards he talked about how he wasn’t mentally ready for it and that he was surprised the coach picked him to take it.  And now, as head coach of England, he actually has them training PK’s and lo and behold England has broken the curse under him against Columbia (sidenote: I love SouthGate)

And I’ll finish with one more thing to watch for.  Watch to see which players, goalies, and coaches turn away so as to not watch PK’s because they simply can’t handle the pressure.  If there’s ever been a more telling sign of BAD body language – language that shouts “I am fearful, stressed, and have zero confidence,” it’s the act of literally turning away so as to not have to watch as the PK’s are taken.  Not to pick on England (ok ok, it is to pick on England a bit), but they were famous for turning away from watching because they couldn’t bare it.

And what did that get them?

Compare that to this current iteration, and you’ll see a night and day difference.  The current national team is full of confident youngsters who display powerful body language, and welcome the pressure of PK’s.

Now, let’s see what happens when one of these next 3 games goes to PK’s (of course, now that I’ve done an article on it, most likely there won’t be anymore PK’s this world cup).

Enjoy the World cup, it’s a good one…


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