Science unlocks the key to penalties, sort of

Dutch psychologists’ research into penalty shoot-outs could change the face of football… unless the goalie just happens to go the other way.

And Manuel Neuer goes... left!
And Manuel Neuer goes... left!
Image: Matthias Schrader/AP/Press Association Images

SHANKAR VEDANTEM, WRITING for NPR, has interviewed a team of scientists affiliated with the University of Amsterdam who believe that goalkeepers favour diving to the right in certain high pressure circumstances.

Whereas goalkeepers appear as likely to go left as right when their team is either ahead or on level terms with an opponent, their likelihood of diving to the right increases significantly when their team is behind.

Shalvi thinks soccer goalkeepers tend to dive right when all hopes are pinned on them. That’s why they dive right, he said, “especially when their team is behind and their likelihood to be heroes is the greatest.”

The study will make interesting reading for coaches and managers alike, but will likely offer little comfort to those taking spot kicks in the future.

Read more about the study at >

Sport’s worst haircuts: a tribute >

Gavin Cooney
Reports From Qatar

Get Gavin's exclusive writing and analysis from the 2022 Fifa World Cup

Become a Member

About the author:

Read next: