Salzburg's Champions League drama: answers to the penalty question

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Salzburg missed two penalties in Seville. Reflections on and about the ominous white point.

Salzburg's Champions League drama: answers to the penalty question

No, it can't be that difficult for a professional footballer to deprive the goalie of any right to intervene and to sink the wolf from a mere eleven meters somewhere in this 7.32 meter wide and 2.44 meter high rectangle. There is a fine line between failure and the logical fulfillment of duty. But what the viewer does not want to see from the couch or grandstand perspective happens again and again. From a statistical point of view: 24 percent – i.e. every fourth – of all penalties are either saved or thoroughly shot.

Salzburg did respectably in the Champions League game in Seville (1: 1), but then missed the full success. Because Karim Adeyemi and Luka Sucic from the ominous point didn't hit that damn rectangle. Was it fear, a disruptive thought process, outside influence, a lack of routine, or simply the wrong tactic? Much is decided in the average of 0.4 seconds it takes a ball from the shot to the goal line.

Sucic, who at least has a personal 50 percent hit rate in the Andalusian penalty shootout (four penalty kicks), already knows the content of the next Salzburg exercise unit: “Practice penalty kicks.”

Salzburg's Champions League drama: answers to the penalty question

Dry training? Is that even possible? “Yes,” says Austria's ex-team striker Marc Janko. But there are basically two different types of penalty shooters. “Some concentrate on a corner, trying to send the goalkeeper on the wrong track by pointing a finger or some other physical movement.”

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Or – and that's the high school – “the shooter coordinates his movement with the reaction of the goalkeeper, and can choose the corner,” says Janko. “This is of course the safest option. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that very well. “

There are quite a few calculations for the ideally shot penalty kick in internationally significant games. Number one was almost always only second when the balls reached a flight height of over four feet. The shot in the cross corner is untenable, but accompanied by a certain risk (see graphic). Statistical records of World Cup and European Championship games over a period of 20 years also showed that the common “right foot” tends to be more towards the left corner, whereas there is no clear preference for the “left foot”.

Whether young or experienced does not seem to play a decisive role. “Young players often don't whistle and don't even think about who and where they're playing for,” says Janko. Recalls that supposedly infallible stars like Ronaldo, Messi, Beckham or Platini bombed or petted balls into nowhere.

Above all, it is important not to be afraid, “to leave no doubt about the successful conclusion.” A study at the last European Championship showed that this uncontrollable willpower of penalty takers was the decisive psychological factor.

“You could almost tell Sucic that he had thought too much,” says Janko. Nevertheless, the 19-year-old from Salzburg is proud of his first goal in the Champions League, “I can't hang my head and keep looking up.”

And brooding less might not hurt either. At all next time, down there, at the white point.

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