The Penalty Shootout is one of those few moments in a goalkeepers career where you actually get the chance to be recognised for winning your team the game! Now all you have to do is stop someone from scoring from 12 yards away unchallenged.
A lot of people think that saving a penalty is purely luck, but that clearly isn’t the case which is why you have some goalkeepers with fantastic records of saving penalties like Pepe Reina! So, KeeperPortal has put together our 10 top tips to saving the next penalty kick you face! Some of these tips will apply only to certain levels of the game but hopefully for everyone playing at every level there will be some tips you can use!
- When placing the ball you will find that the players standing foot will often point to where they are going to shoot the ball, this is usually done subconsciously and is the first indicator to look for in my opinion.
- Make eye contact with the penalty taker, particularly at the lower ages of the game you can often get a very good tell from the taker by watching their eyes – often they will try and show you the way they are looking and put it the other way.
- Watch the plant foot just before they strike the ball… most players standing foot will be pointing towards the corner they are going to strike the ball as they hit it to ensure a clean strike which will give you a chance to react slightly before the ball is struck, although a solid strike into the corner will still be too fast for this method!
- If the taker does a stutter run up as is becoming more and more common in today’s game be prepared to stand your ground and wait for them to strike the ball, usually this stutter run up will prevent the attacker from getting any real power on to the strike giving you a better chance to react to the shot rather than diving blindly in one direction.
- Watch the hips! Similar to point three, as the taker is about to strike the ball the hips will often show you which way the ball is going to go just before it is struck – again if you can read this and the planted foot as it happens you will get a great indicator as to which way to go but if they hit it into the corner unfortunately you are unlikely to get there in time.
- Don’t be afraid to take a step off your line at the last minute, the advantage that can be gained from doing this (particularly if you aren’t 6ft 5) is massive and rarely will you see a referee order a retake unless you are miles off your line. Watch Liverpool vs Milan Champions League Final Penalty Shootout for further proof!
- Do your homework! One for the goalkeepers at the upper end of the football pyramid, make sure you know exactly where their usual penalty takers usually put their spot kicks – in particular the last 5 and their last 3 big decisive penalties (i.e. cup finals etc) a lot of players will have a preferred spot to put it which they resort to in big pressure situations and use less intensive games to even out their percentages across all areas of the goal to make it harder for keepers to research this!
- Make yourself big, intimidating and don’t dive to early!!! I’ve seen it so many times when a keeper gets all pumped up ready for the shot, decides where he thinks the player is going to put it and throws himself across the goal with all his energy – a yard before the penalty is taken and the taker just rolls it in the other direction! Stand your ground until the last minute so that even once you have made your mind up and made your dive, if the penalty taker goes down the middle you have a chance of saving it with your trailing legs.
- Watch lots and lots of penalties being taken, if you get the chance – whilst your team are doing penalty practice just sit behind the goal and watch their body shape, run up and overall demeanour until you get good at being able to read where they are going to put it with no pressure on having to actually make a save.
- Play the statistics… If after all of the above tips you find you still can’t save a penalty to save your life then resort to solid mathematical statistics which are often quoted that a goalkeeper who stays in the middle of his goal saves twice as many penalties as a goalkeeper who just makes a choice and dives… and if you are going to make a choice (this is only natural.. the mind tells us that in a pressure situation it is better to do something and react than to do nothing) then statistics tell us that most penalties are shot across the takers body i.e. right footed players go to the goalkeepers right and left footed players go to the goalkeepers left.
That’s it! Hopefully now you will be a penalty saving hero and we can look forward to you helping England (or your own country) win the World Cup in the future! One point I would love to make however is that now and again the penalty taker is going to smash it into the top corner and you will unfortunately just have to take it as a great strike.
Any questions feel free to drop me a comment and I will be sure to get back to you!