How to score a penalty kick
With World Cup fever taking over and VAR hitting the limelight, penalties have become the defining feature of World Cup 2018. With a record number of penalties at an international tournament on display in Russia, perfecting your penalty technique is now more important than ever.
Whilst the professionals can spend hours analysing a goalkeepers movements, chances are you won’t have that luxury. Therefore your best bet is to knuckle down and focus on perfecting your ability to hit the back of the net!
#1 Find your sweet spot
For an Amateur, Academy or even semi-professional soccer player, you aren’t going to have a team of analysts studying your recent history to try and predict which way you’ll hit the ball. Therefore you won’t need to worry about hitting the same direction every time. There are 5 positions to hit a great penalty and maximize your potential to score:
- Top Left Corner
- Top Right Corner
- Bottom Left Corner
- Bottom Right Corner
- Straight Down the Middle
Practice hitting each of these areas and see which one feels most natural to you. Statistically, hitting the top corners is the hardest technique to perfect but without a doubt the hardest shot for a goalkeeper to save.Generally speaking, a goalkeeper will naturally dive low to either side, as psychologically the bottom corner is seen as the most common position for a penalty kick to be aimed. Remember, if you opt for straight down the middle, you’re gambling on the goalkeeper diving to either corner.
#2 Accuracy trumps Power
So many times I see a player step up for a penalty kick and smash the ball wildly over the bar or wide of the post. Whether to go for power or accuracy isn’t simply flip of a coin. In fact, where you decide to position your penalty kick can actually determine whether it is more suitable to strike through the ball with your laces, or guide the ball accurately with your instep. To begin with, it is always important to focus on perfecting accuracy in your penalties. Look at this simple guide below to see if you should striker with your laces or instep.
Top or Bottom Left Corner – Right Footed – Strike through the ball with the top of your foot.
When you’re shooting across your body, as you do when aiming left as a right-footed player, it is the ideal circumstance to hit with power. If you were to strike with the instep here, the travel of the ball would bring it closer to the goalkeeper and make the penalty kick easier to save. You also run the risk of dragging the ball wide if you put too much curl on the ball. Therefore if you want power, then aiming left is the optimal direction to strike your penalty.
Top or Bottom Right Corner – Right Footed – Place accurately with your instep
When shooting to the right as a right-footed player, opting for power here can bring all kinds of trouble.Striking with your laces will run a high risk of blazing the ball wide as you adjust the unnatural position of your run up. Instead, by opening up your body, you’re in the optimal position to accurately manipulate the ball into either the top or bottom corner. The direction the ball travels when hit to the right with your instep, will at first take the ball wide of the post and then curl back towards the corner of choice. This line of travel takes the ball further away from the goalkeeper, making it more difficult to save.
Straight Down the Middle – Right Footed – No magic formula here
There’s no magic formula with this particular spot kick. Aiming straight down the middle is a lottery. Whether you strike with power or accuracy, you’re putting fate into the goalkeepers hands. Even if he dives to either side, there’s a chance he will still be able to save the ball with his feet, which is why if I was too ever go straight down the middle (I don’t), then I would always aim high. Remember, scoring your penalty is a lot more important than looking cool or humiliating the goalkeeper.
#3 Don’t change your mind
You’ve found your sweet spot. You know the optimal way to striker the ball. Now practice it and stick with it. Taking a penalty is a skill, not a lottery. If you can perfect one the above methods, then even when the goalkeeper guesses correctly which way you will go, they are still very unlikely to save the ball.
#4 No time for mind games
Don’t fall into the trap of ”giving the goalkeeper the eyes” or stuttering your run up. When you take a penalty the power is in your hands. Carry the ball to the spot, place it down yourself. Take one look at the goal and then focus on the technique you have practiced over and over again. As stated above, even if the goalkeeper guesses correctly, when you have perfected your technique it is highly unlikely that they will save your kick.
YOU HAVE THE POWER. Scoring a penalty kick is all about performing a skill under pressure. So long as your practice this set skill consistently, you can step up to every penalty knowing that you will score. Pick your spot. Hit it accurately. Celebrate wildly.