May
17
2006

# Soccer Blog 2: Where to place your PK

Keeper: Image courtesy various visual stuff.

Earlier I wrote a blog post where mathematicians had determined that soccer was the most exciting sport to watch because the probability for an upset was higher than in other sports. In recent soccer related science research, Ken Bray, a theoretical physicist from the University of bath in England has conducted research to show that the areas near the top corners of the net are what he calls an “unsaveable zone”. To find this zone, Bray studied games from the past 50 years and applied his knowledge of physics, biology, and psychology to calculate the reach of a goalkeeper attempting to save a penalty kick. His advice for the goalkeepers? Move before the ball is kicked…which I think is cheating, so that would not be my advice! Bray also says that in 85% of penalty kicks, the direction in which the plant foot is the direction of the shot.

Dr. Bray has written a book on the science of soccer titled, “How to Score”.

I was a goalkeeper in high school and I remember endless debate among my teammates about this very subject. I ended up stressing about it so much that whenever we would practice PKs I would end up never being able to commit which way to dive.

So my coaches advice was to just pick a direction and go that way no matter what. 50% of the time I had a very good chance of blocking the goal. For me it was more mental than physical. Seems like the psychology of this one-on-one moment also deserves some good study.

I have always thought that PKs are kinda ridiculous. I mean its one thing in basketball when you get penalized by two or three points out of a hundred or so to determine a game. But in soccer, one point can pretty much determine the game. That's allot of pressure to put on one person in such a team sport....just my unscientific tangent.

posted on Wed, 05/17/2006 - 5:42pm

You need to place the ball in the right or left side corner. Most goalies won't get it.

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 9:31am

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