How to Master Penalties: The 4 Tactics Top Players Use to Succeed from 12 Yards
With the 2014 World Cup just over a month away, preparations for any in-game eventuality will be undertaken by each club. For England, most notably, as well as other nations, the art of penalty taking will be thoroughly practiced— more so for the Three Lions, considering they have been eliminated from three World Cups and three European Championships in the last 14 years by penalties, as documented by the Daily Mail.
In order to stop the rot, managers need to look at which players have the best conversion record to better their chance of progressing in penalty shootouts.
Former Southampton midfielder Matthew Le Tissier was a player renowned for his spot-kick taking, scoring 48 out of 49 career penalties.
For present players in the EPL, Everton left-back Leighton Baines has yet to miss any of his 11 top flight penalties taken, according to Liverpool Echo.
Southampton’s Rickie Lambert boasts the best record through all the English tiers, however. The 32-year-old has scored 34 out of 34 penalties taken.
So what are the techniques players use that manage to earn them a very impressive conversion rate?
Waiting for the Goalkeeper to Move
For taking penalties, a method that has proven very effective with a number of top players is waiting for the goalkeeper to move before slotting the ball in the opposite direction.
AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli is one who uses this technique. The Italian international will often stutter his run-up to see which side the goalkeeper shifts his weight to, before passing the ball into the opposite side.
His style was talked about on Bleacher Report in March last year, where he was boasting a 100 percent record from 19 penalties.
Going Straight Down the Middle
A lot of football players have a simpler method for penalties that works just as well from 12 yards. They simply shoot the ball down the middle, as goalkeepers are deemed more likely to pick a side to dive, rather than stay central, which would give two clear sides for a spot-kick taker to aim at.
Some players will run up to the ball as if they’re going to rifle a strike into a corner, before deftly chipping the ball into the middle of the goal, as Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo did successfully against England in Euro 2012. Others plump for less subtlety and simply rocket their effort into the roof of the net.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has a good record from 12 yards using this tactic. According to The Chels, up to June 2012, Lampard had a 100 percent conversion rate from the 10 penalties he struck down the middle.
Picking out the Bottom Corner
One of the more popular techniques used by players is picking out either the left or right bottom corner with a powerful effort or side-footed shot to make it as difficult as possible for the goalkeeper to get down to save quickly enough.
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard is a great advocate of this style. While he does have great variety in his choice of spot-kicks, Gerrard has scored with many attempts side-footed into the bottom corner of either side of the goal, as shown in their 3-0 win against Man Utd, via BBC Sport.
Side-footing a penalty should be a lower risk technique as it’s merely a pass into either bottom corner of the goal.
Finding the Top Corner
Certainly the most difficult technique, but also the one most rewarding, is finding the top corner from a spot-kick. Either side-footing or lacing the shot, finding the corner of the goal is the most tricky to do but will guarantee success every time if done successfully, according to Professor Tom Riley, from Liverpool John Moores University, via BBC Sport.
Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner has a penchant for this style. He often differentiates from either using power, or curling his efforts, but he nevertheless loves to pick out the top corner with his spot-kicks a lot of the time.