The maths behind penalities – Part Two

27/06/2010 | By More

Yesterday we saw that goalkeepers are basically glory seekers, or at least showing that they understand the psychology of failing the right way. Today we give a final answer on what David James should do if faced by a German penalty today.

Often the best way to look at something is to turn it on it’s head. When we looked at penalities we saw that while kicks are randomly distributed, the goalkeepers actions are not. So lets look at when they get it right.

In the sample we were looking at, 32/268 penalties were ‘saved’, around 11%. Saved shots were reasonably equally distributed whether the taker sent them left right or down the middle. But, when you combine this with goalkeeping stats one thing really stands out. If the goalkeeper stands in the middle and a shot is sent in roughly that direction, it was saved 60% of the time. This is more than double the rate at which a goalkeeper who guesses right can save a kick. Obviously if a shot is sent left and the goalkeeper goes right the strike rate is err.. zero.

Whichever way you look at it, standing still is actually a good tactic. It’s difficult to reach the ball in a far corner from a good penalty taker, so it’s better to captialise on nervous takers who don’t want to risk missing. Of course this all depends on one penalty being independant from another. Let on that you are going to stand still and you increase the chance that the ball will not go down the centre. That is where it gets more complex, should your strikers assume the goalkeeper will dive or stand still? Logic tells you to send it into the corner but reality indicates that at least half the time the goalkeeper will dive that way. It all comes down to psychology. With England so fragile I would be tempted to suggest, just keep in on target and hit it hard. James should stand still and be prepared to get it in the neck for ‘not trying’. That should do the trick.

If you want to do more research ahead of today’s match I suggest you visit: –

For the definite way to take a penalty, I’ll leave it to the master.

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I left a good job in the consumer technology industry to go a trade on Betfair for a living way back in June 2000. I've been here ever since pushing very boundaries of what's possible on betting exchanges and loved every minute of it.

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