Football Penalty Kick

Everything you need to know about penalty shootouts in soccer

Allesandro del PieroPenalty kicks are direct free kicks taken from the penalty mark. The penalty mark is 12 yards out from the goalmouth. A team concedes a penalty kick if a defending player commits a foul that ordinarily results in a direct free kick inside his own penalty area. The ball has to be in play for a penalty kick to be allowed.

On the other hand, a penalty shootout refers to penalty kicks taken in some competitions to determine the winner after a knock-out match ends in a draw. They are taken in a similar manner to penalty kicks but are directed by slightly different rules.

The Rules of a Penalty Kick

Taking a penalty takes a formal procedure. Once the referee signals a foul in the area and awards a penalty to the non-offending team, a player from that team is identified to take the penalty. The soccer referee hands the player the ball and instructs the goalkeeper to remain at the line. The penalty taker puts the ball on the penalty mark and gets ready to strike it. The referee confirms whether the keeper is ready and blows the whistle approving the shooter can take the penalty.

Soccer Exclusion Zone

Once the penalty taker starts moving towards the ball, he or she is not allowed to move backwards. He cannot stop when very near the ball since at that time the keeper may have already moved toward one direction. He should kick the ball forward and cannot play it again until it touches another player. The ball is back in play once the kick is taken.

All players except the penalty taker and the opposing goalkeeper should be positioned outside the penalty area or the exclusion zone (shown on the left) but within the field of play, at least 10 yards behind the penalty mark.

Infringement of the Laws of the Game

The stated Laws of the Game need to be followed. If the referee signals the player to take the penalty and before doing so:

  1. He or his team mate infringe the laws, the referee allows the player to take the penalty and if it results in a goal, the kick is retaken. However, if it is not a goal the defending team resumes play with an indirect kick from where the infringement occurred.
  2. Else, if the opposing goalkeeper or his team mate infringe the laws, the referee allows the penalty to be taken. If it enters the goal, then a goal is awarded. Otherwise, the penalty kick is retaken.
  3. If a player of both teams infringe the laws, the penalty is retaken.

If an outside agent comes in contact with the ball after the shot is taken, the penalty is retaken. If it rebounds from the goalposts, the goalkeeper or crossbar into the field of play and touches an outside agent, then the referee stops the play and restarts at that position it touched the agent in the goal area.

A penalty kick foul occurs whether a player has control of the ball or not as long as the foul happens inside the penalty area. The referee and assistant referee need to be in a proper position to note the action and make the call.

How & where to shoot the ball in a spot kick

A miss or a goal during a penalty shoot-out is determined by the strength, accuracy and timing of the shot. Penalty-takers have three different trikes to choose from:

  1. Penalty pass - The player, basically, passes the ball into the net. This provides accuracy is a good choice if the keeper has dived early.
  2. Penalty chip - The boldest kind of kick but is extremely risky. The taker relies on the goalkeeper diving before the strike.
  3. Power shot - This kick sacrifices accuracy for speed. There is a good chance of success if he doesn't blast the ball high or wide.

Where the shot is placed also have a great influence on the success rate of the kick. A research carried out in Liverpool University concluded that the best penalty kicks are those that hit the top corner of the net. If perfectly executed, it has a 100 percent success rate. Because of the high chance of missing such a kick, coaches usually advice takers to aim for the bottom of the goal.

Where to shoot during penalty kick

History of the Penalty Kick and Shootout

It can be considered that the origin of the penalty kick lies in rugby football but the invention is credited to William McCrum. McCrum was the goalkeeper of the Irish soccer team Milford Everton FC from 1890 to 1891. Though his idea was initially made fun of and followed by heated debates, it was accepted on 2 June 1891. The first penalty kick in soccer was awarded to Airdrieonians F.C, a former Scottish professional soccer team.

Penalty shootouts were not immediately introduced in soccer. Knock-out matches were decided through a replay or simply tossing a coin after the extra time elapsed. At times, where replays were not possible, ties were decide by drawing of lots like in the 1968 European Championship. Israeli Yosef Dagan watched his national team lose in the 1968 Olympics by drawing of lots after which he suggested the modern penalty shootout.

Dagan is credited for the origin of the penalty shootout but this has been disputed by reports claiming a German referee, Karl Ward, had a similar proposal presented to the Bavarian FA in 1970. The proposal of FIFA about a shootout was discussed on February 20 1970 by a group of International Football Association Board (IFAB) members which recommended its adoption. IFAB approved it in the annual meeting on June 27 1970.

Penalty shootouts were used for the first time in a professional match in England during the Watney Cup tournament in a game between Manchester United and Hull city in 1970. They have been used ever since around the world in all levels of competitions.

Most Memorable Penalty Kicks

There are a number of impressive penalty kicks that have left the soccer fans mesmerized. A magnificent penalty by Antonin Panenka in 1976 granted Czechoslovakia a win against West Germany in the European Championships tournament. This was the first major international competition to use penalty shootouts.


In 1982, Ajax players Johan Cruyff and Jesper Olsen executed a two-man penalty, also referred to as a tap penalty to easily score against Helmond Sport. Later in 2005, Arsenal players Theiry Henry and Robert Pires tried a similar display against Manchester City with no success.

In this list is the display by Zinedine Zidane of France who flaunted his boldness to beat the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a tantalizing chip in the World cup final of 2006. Another worth mention is that of a fierce penalty kick by Kevin Pressman, the keeper of Sheffield Wednesday, which left the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper with no chance to stop it.

Top Penalty Takers

Penalty kicks need guts to execute though it is a clear chance to score. Pressure tends to hit the players at times and they end up missing from the 12 yard mark. Still, some penalty takers standout owing to their techniques that taunt the opponent’s goalkeeper more often than not. One such player is the Italian star Mario Balotelli. The AC Milan striker has an impressive record in penalty kicks.

Next is the Portugal and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo. His accuracy and fierce kicks from the mark makes him a lethal penalty taker. Other shooters with stellar performance are the England forward Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines (Everton FC), Frank Lampard (Chelsea FC), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC) Andrea Pirlo (Juventus) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona).