(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
#qatar 2022 desmond samith |
Italy's talisman Roberto Baggio stepped up to take a decisive and fifth penalty in a shootout against Brazil in the FIFA World Cup final 1994 at Rose Bowl in California, US.
Baggio had scored five goals in that tournament and was in fine form. Everybody expected him to score and keep his country, trailing 2-3, in the hunt. But Baggio blazed his penalty over the bar, giving Brazil their fourth title.
That was the first time a World Cup final was decided on penalties. The second and the last time also involved Italy. It was in 2006 in Germany. That time Italy prevailed over France 5-3 after the teams were tied 1-1 at extra time.
Penalty shootout, introduced in 1970, is used to determine the winner in a knockout football match if teams are tied after extra time. FIFA first adopted the penalty shootout rule for the 1978 World Cup held in Argentina, but it was not required in that edition.
If there's a dreaded moment in football it's the penalty shootout – the sudden death. It can silence a whole football stadium, make the spot-kick takers lose focus, bring out acrobatic saves from goal keepers and break thousands of hearts or drive thousands to jubilation – all in a few seconds.
Is a penalty shootout“a lottery” as Dutch football manager Louis van Gaal once said? Or the players just can't master the art of taking penalties in training as French manager Didier Deschamps once opined. Or more training brings more success from the 12 yards as believed by Spain coach Luis Enrique who asked his players to do the homework of taking 1,000 penalties each. Or is there a science behind taking penalties?
Is studying your opposition – penalty kickers and goal keepers – including their past practices enough to be successful at a crucial penalty shootout?
“For me, it's not a lottery. If you've practised it many times, the mechanics of the shot are clearly going to be better. Of course, you can't prepare for the tension of the moment, but I think it's manageable,” said the Spanish manager a couple of days before the Morocco game.
At Qatar 2022 two teams have been so far eliminated in penalty shootouts – Japan against Croatia and Enrique's Spain against Morocco in the Round of 16.
Lothar Matthaus who captained the West Germany to the 1990 FIFA World Cup glory told The Long Walk his team practised taking penalties every day, something that stood in good stead for them to over England in the semifinals.
However Matthaus said there was something more than training for it.
“You can train all you like but you can't prepare for actually doing it,” he said.“You can't train for the atmosphere, the pressure and the tiredness you feel after 120 minutes.”
“You know the whole world's watching, but you've got to put that out of your mind,” said Matthaus.“You have to focus on what really matters and keep your mind on that. When you're walking up to the spot, you can even find yourself thinking about the next day's headlines. But when the moment comes, you've got to be focused.”
At the 2002 World Cup, co-hosts Korea Republic sprang a major surprise when they beat Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals. Their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink had used some innovative practices during training honing the Koreans' spot-kick abilities.
“It's the calm players who shut out all the noise around them that have the most success,” said Hiddink.
England have been a traditional weak link when it comes to penalty shootouts. But their current manager Gareth Southgate who himself had missed his kick in a semi-final shoot-out loss to the Germans on home soil at Euro 1996, started taking sudden-death scenario seriously.
As per the The Long Walk Southgate made wholesale changes when he came in and identified penalty shoot-outs as one of his key priorities, treating them with a level of detail that impressed his players.
“We talked about which side to put them and we had our own shoot-outs at the end of each training session,” revealed former international Ashley Young.
“We weren't just practising penalty kicks either. We'd stand together in the centre circle and everything. When we went up to take them, we knew we had to relax, breathe and wait just the right amount of time. Then, once we were focused, we were ready to take the kick.”
Metin Tolan, a Physics lecturer at the University of Gottingen in Germany, in The Long Walk revealed a secret for the success at a penalty shootout relying on the laws of nature - players putting on a heavier pair of boots before they step up to take a spot-kick. This will make their shots travel faster:“I don't know why they don't do it,” he said.
Tolan then suggested that once they have donned more appropriate footwear, penalty-takers should aim for the parts of the goal where they are sure to score:“There are what we might call areas that are out of the goalkeeper's reach.”
Tolan's“map” of the goal is based on a goalkeeper who is 6'7 (2m) tall, standing in a goal measuring 7.32m wide and 2.44m high. His calculations consider a ball traveling at around 100 km/h when struck, which would reach the goal in 0.4 seconds. If the goalkeeper sticks to the rules and keeps their feet on the goal-line until the moment the ball is struck, there are certain areas of the goal they cannot possibly reach, even if they guess right, namely the top and bottom corners.
Geir Jordet, a professor at Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, having spent five years studying the psychology of the penalty shootout, has come up with some interesting and vital facts.
- Players in the World Cup Euros, and Copa America miss more shots when pressure is high (late in the shootout), have lower shooting skill (defenders), are older than 23 yrs (younger players score more), and are fatigued (played 120 min).
-“Superstars” can be a liability in a penalty shootout. After receiving a prestigious individual award, players score 65% of their shots. prior to receiving an award, they score 89%. Status adds pressure to an already high-pressure event!
- Positive mind helps! Players who need to score to not instantly lose score 62% of their shots, while 92% of shots where goals instantly give a win are scored. Players also prepare quicker and turn gaze away more on high-stress instantly-lose shots.
- Players from different countries historically respond differently to the stress of penalties. English players, more than others, have turned their gaze away from the goalkeeper and responded quicker to whistle. Probably to get relief from stress.
- Ghosts from the past play a role for performance today. If your team lost in preceding shootout(s), you're more likely to miss your current shot; if your team won, you're more likely to score. Valid also if not personally involved in past events.
Penalty shootouts at World Cup
Argentina hold the record of being involved in the most penalty shootouts – five (1990 – beat Yougoslavia in quarter-finals and Italy in semifinals, 1998 – beat England in second round, 2014 – beat the Netherlands in semifinals). They lost only one, the 2006 quarter-final vs Germany. Germany have never lost a penalty shootout, winning all four (1982 France in semifinals, 1986 vs Mexico in quarter-finals, 1990 vs England in semifinals, 2006 vs Argentina in quarter-finals). Croatia have three wins in three (2018 vs Denmark in second round, vs Russia in quarter-finals, 2022 vs Japan in second round) England, Italy and Spain have each lost three of the four penalty shootouts to date (losses - England – 1990, 1998, 2006; Italy – 1990, 1994, 1998; Spain – 1986, 2022, 2018).