06/29/2010 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

World Cup Penalty Kicks: The Science Behind Shootouts (VIDEO)

After 120 grueling minutes, the score remained 0-0. Players were lying on the ground, exhausted. The match, however, was not over. Draws no longer exist. Paraguay and Japan had to square off in the first penalty shootout of the 2010 World Cup. Each team has given five penalty kicks. Japan lost in the shootout 5-3.

ESPN's "Sport Science" released a clip analyzing penalty kicks just 11 days ago. As the clip specifies, the lack of time is the most difficult obstacle a goalie faces for a penalty shot. It only takes 400 milliseconds for the soccer ball to spring off the shooter's cleat and into the corner of the net. The goalie needs 730 milliseconds to reach the corner of the net. Doing the simple math, it is not possible for a goalie to wait for the ball to be shot, dive to the corner of the goal, and stop the ball.

According to Sport Science's John Brenkus, goalies correctly predict the shooter's direction 57% of the time. In today's shootout, the goalies were right 44% of the time. Interestingly, even when guessing correctly, the goalies never touched the soccer ball. Anticipating the direction is only one part of the equation to stopping a penalty shot. The next step, and just as crucial, is determining the shot's height. It could be high; it could be low.

According to Brenkus, the annual rate of a goalie stopping a penalty kick is 22%. In today's game between Paraguay and Japan, the goalies stopped 11% of the shots. Japan's Yuichi Komano was the only player to miss. Paraguayan goalie Justo Villar did not stop his shot; the top crossbar did.

Scroll down to watch the video.


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