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Are penalty shootouts about to change dramatically?

Two academics are proposing a ‘catch-up’ rule to help eradicate the advantages afforded to the team that kicks first.

Image: Martin Meissner/AP/Press Association Images

MUCH HAS BEEN made about the science behind a penalty shootout.

In recent years, the theory that it’s a lottery has been rubbished by football writers, statisticians and academics alike.

The numbers are so important regarding a shootout that many will argue the most important element happens before a ball is even kicked.

Statistically, a team that kicks first wins 60% of the time. So, the team that wins the coin toss and elects to go first has an immediate and considerable advantage.

But is that about to change?

Two academics – Professor Steven Brams from New York University and Maastricht Unievrsity’s Mehmet Ismail, have proposed a ‘catch-up’ rule that would stifle the supposed benefits that develop during a shootout.

Soccer Euro 2012 England Italy Source: Matthias Schrader

Their idea is pretty straightforward.

If the teams both score or miss their first kick, the order reverses for the next round.

But, if one team scores and the other misses, it’s the team who have just missed who get the chance to ‘catch up’ and take their next penalty immediately after.

Essentially, the proposal removes the psychological disadvantage of missing a penalty and seeing the opponent potentially gaining another immediate advantage.

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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