Penalties

Portugal v England – World Cup 2006 – Penalty Shoot-Out

The penalty kick. To utter these very words can make the most intrepid footballer tremble at the knees.

Etched into every footballer’s memory are images of famous disastrous penalty moments; Chris Waddle’s over-the-bar screamer in Italia 90 for instance, or Gareth Southgate’s nation crushing miss in Euro 1996. And those are just some of England’s disasters!

Such mental images can flood back and torment a player’s concentration at the moment they must step up to take a penalty kick. Concentration and inner calm are integral elements in taking a successful penalty kick. Do not allow the goalkeeper to distract you, this will be his primary aim. Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was infamous for his trembling knee technique to unnerve the penalty taker, later imitated successfully by Jerzy Dudek in the 2005 Champions League final. Check the goalkeepers positioning, maybe he has left more space on one side of the goal which you could exploit.

Place the ball well and ensure there are no tufts of grass that that could impede a clean strike of the ball. Pace your run up well. Place your non-kicking foot alongside the positioned ball and stride your run up perhaps 5 or 6 long paces back.

Different players have their preferences when choosing how to strike the ball. Penalty kicks styles can be usefully divided into two categories: placed, side of the foot kicks, and blasted instep kicks. Side of the foot kicks are effective if well placed – low, and in the corner of the goal. Driven kicks with the instep of the foot are effective with their power, but more risky in terms of accuracy, and can easily result in scooping the ball over the bar or dragging it wide of the post. The key thing is to think about where you want to put the ball – choose a spot in the goal and stick to it regardless of the goalkeeper’s antics.

Technique and a bit of luck are important elements in mastering the penalty kick, but the psychological aspect is crucial. Hold your nerve and focus on the objective and you will more than likely walk away triumphant from the penalty spot.