England footballers are the best penalty takers in the world – but bottle it during shootouts
England footballers are the world’s best penalty takers and score 90 per cent of those awarded in matches — but bottle it during shootouts, a German study found.
The researchers revealed that the English team’s success rate drops by a third when the ‘Three Lions’ face off against sudden death.
However, help may be at hand from a seemingly unlikely source — one that may put an end to 55 years of hurt come the delayed Euro 2020 in June–July 2021.
German scientists have suggested that England’s poor shootout performance may be down to a combination of nerves under pressure and inadequate practice.
According to the experts, the idea that England is bad at penalties is just a myth — but one that has got into the players’ heads to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In contrast, the German team’s performance goes the other way — improving from 75 per cent in games to 85 per cent in shootouts.
However, it’s the latter that sticks in one’s memory — because of the drama that surrounds penalty shootouts, said lead researcher Michel Brinkschult.
This, he added, fuels the stereotype that ‘English players are bad at penalties.’
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England footballers are the world’s best penalty takers and score 90 per cent of those awarded in matches — but bottle it during shootouts, a German study found. Pictured, David Beckham misses a penalty during the 2003 Turkey vs England game
Of the 223 in-game penalties given to England within World Cup and European Championships matches, the team have put away 90 per cent, but when it comes to penalty shootouts, this drops to 61 per cent. By contrast, Germany scores 75 per cent of penalties in-game but a whopping 85 per cent during penalty shootouts.
Dr Brinkschulte — an analyst at the German Sport University Cologne — hopes that the findings will help the England team get over their hangups.
‘A loss in an emotional penalty shootout during a World or European Cup arguably comes more easily to mind than an in-game penalty,’ he added.
‘In turn, people believe English players miss more penalties than they actually do.’
Dr Brinkschulte and colleagues reviewed 696 penalties taken at all the 21 football World Cups and 15 European Championships since 1930 and 1960, respectively.
They also looked at another 4,708 penalties taken over a decade in the major European leagues — including the Premier League.
The study found that English players performed just as well as those of any other nationality, said Dr Brinkschulte.
Shootouts were introduced by UEFA in 1976 and FIFA two years later. Since 1978, England has lost six out of its nine shootouts — three during World Cups and three in the European Championships.
Two of these losses were in semi finals against Germany, who have lost only one-out-of-seven shootouts — an achievement unmatched by any other country.
In the words of Dr Brinkschulte, shootouts are the ‘pinnacle of high pressure performance in football.’
Previous research has blamed the England team’s so-called ‘penalty curse’ on the popularity of the Premier League — with the big profiles of the players helping to pile on the pressure.
This has led to the ‘well known stereotype’ of the bad English penalty taker, Dr Brinkschulte said. However, these earlier studies were only based on small samples.
English players are also among the best penalty takers across the European leagues. They convert 75 per cent — the same as Italians. This puts them ahead of Germans and Spanish (both at 69 per cent), Brazilians (73 per cent) — and just behind the Dutch at 77 per cent
‘Even acknowledged football experts in television commentaries openly talk about how bad England are at penalties,’ Dr Brinkschulte noted.
However, his investigation — the most thorough of its kind to date — found that the reverse is actually true.
Of the 223 penalties given to England within World Cup and European Championships matches, the team have put away 90 per cent.
Next comes Brazil (87.5 per cent), Spain (77 per cent), Germany and the Netherlands (both at 75 per cent) and Italy (65 per cent). Other countries average at 79 per cent.
Historically, England’s most reliable penalty takers have included Harry Kane and Frank Lampard (11 each), Wayne Rooney (7), Alan Shearer (6), David Beckham (5) and World Cup legend Sir Geoff Hurst (4).
English players are also among the best penalty takers across the European leagues. They convert 75 per cent — the same as Italians.
This similarly puts them ahead of Germans and Spanish (both at 69 per cent), Brazilians (73 per cent) — and only just behind the Dutch who convert 77 per cent.
The average for all other nationalities is only 68 per cent.
When it comes to the 473 shoot-out penalties in the World Cup and the European Championship, however, the England team finds itself at the bottom of the table — managing to covert only 61 per cent.
England’s stars might be afraid of media pundits and critics who can be particularly fierce — causing them to ‘choke under pressure’, the researchers suggest. Coaches and players may also be more likely to regard shootouts as a lottery — meaning that they practice less
Unsurprisingly, Germans come out at the top (with 85 per cent), well ahead of both the Brazilians and Italians (at 69 per cent), Spaniards (68 per cent) and the Dutch (67 per cent). The average for other countries is 73 per cent.
‘English players perform almost 30 per cent worse in shootouts than in in-game penalties. Germany perform 10 per cent better in shootouts,’ Dr Brinkschulte said
However, he added, ‘the results reveal no significant differences between the success rates — on average between 71–79 per cent depending on the type of penalty and competition — of different nations.
‘Therefore, we conclude English players perform as well as players from other nations and poor performance in penalties lay beyond the factor of nationality.’
Dr Brinkschulte and his colleagues have identified some ‘meaningful differences’ that may help to explain England’s shootout problem.
England’s stars might be afraid of media pundits and critics who can be particularly fierce — causing them to ‘choke under pressure’, the team suggest.
Coaches and players may also be more likely to regard shootouts as a lottery — meaning that they practice less and perform the worse for it.
Other countries that have done better — especially Germany — may simply be preparing better, Dr Brinkschulte said.
‘In the future, there will certainly be further penalty shootouts determining the success of the England national team in major competitions,’ said Dr Brinkschulte.
‘Perhaps, with the help of scientific findings, practice, or merely an increasing number of penalty shootouts, their record of accomplishment will even out.’
With this, he added, comes the possibility that ‘the widespread stereotype that English football players are bad at scoring penalty kicks will eventually fade.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
RESEARCHERS CREATE FORMULA FOR THE PERFECT PENALTY SAVE
The perfect formula for saving a penalty has been revealed by Dutch mathematicians.
Researchers came up with the complex formula after a review of previous studies into the art of saving penalties.
They modified an existing formula for ball catching that took information from ball flight into account by adding information about player intent available from studies that looked at the movements of penalty takers.
The new formula, called an ‘affordance-based control model’, takes into account both where and when to dive and captures the constraints that must be satisfied to successfully save a penalty.
It includes the magnitude and force of a dive, and scales goalkeepers’ required actions to their maximum capabilities.