Don’t be distracted by the goalie
Former Polish goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, used the distraction strategy very effectively in the 2005 Champion’s League final – he saved two penalties from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko, and distracted Serginho enough for him to strike his effort over the bar.
How to kick
The most important kicking skill in football is the instep kick or the “laces” kick. Here, the player drives using the quadriceps muscles of the thigh to provide the most powerful technique in football.
A classic example of emphasising speed over accuracy was Chris Waddle missing one of England’s penalties in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany. But it’s also worth noting that placing greater emphasis on accuracy to the detriment of speed can also give the goal keeper enough time to react and save the penalty.
The perfect shot
So with all this in mind, how do you take a penalty like a pro? It all starts with the run up phase, skilled players typically approach the ball at an angle of about 45 degrees (0 degrees being directly behind the ball). This facilitates maximal ball speed.
Approaching the ball at such an angle also helps the player to incline their kicking leg away from the support leg. This is thought to improve the foot-to-ball contact – by enabling the kicking foot to be placed further underneath the ball.
The speed players approach and run up to the ball will be different for each person. This is important, as research has shown that footballers produce their highest ball speeds when using a self-selected speed of approach.
Next up is the backswing phase of the kick. This is crucial for stretching the muscles of the upper and lower body to an optimal length to help generate greater muscle forces. Elite footballers perform this phase of the kick by extending the kicking leg, rotating the torso, and extending the non-kickside shoulder backwards through a large range of motion. This phase is analogous to drawing back the bow in archery.
Now to the forward phase of the kick. Here, the muscles contract rotating the torso and flexing the non-kickside shoulder towards the kicking leg. On top of this, the kicking leg is coordinated in a specific sequence: the hip is flexed first, followed by fast knee extension, resulting in the foot accelerating through to ball contact.
The position and speed of the foot at ball contact determines the quality of the foot-to-ball impact and the resultant ball speed and accuracy. To optimise ball speed in a penalty kick scenario it is important to kick the ball as close to the centre as possible.
What all this shows, is that scoring a penalty kick is no mean feat.
So as you watch the World Cup, keep in mind the level of skill needed to get that penalty on point.