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Goalkeepers, penalty kicks and acknowledging good ol’ luck

Jun 26, 2013, 5:46 PM EDT


Riddle me this: Why do so many TV announcers hate to acknowledge the role ol’ lady luck plays in penalty kick success or failure?

I’m thinking about this after watching Diego Forlan fail to convert an early spot shot for Uruguay against Brazil in today’s Confederations Cup semifinal.

It seems to me that two penalty kicks can be hit in the exact same spot, with the precise same amount of power. If one goes in, we hear about “sending the goalkeeper the wrong way,” and about how a “well-taken shot” never gave the ‘keeper a chance and such.

But if a mirror image is turned away, we tend to get complaints of “not a lot of pace” and “poorly placed” and the all-encompassing “not the best penalty kick.”

Only, it’s the same darn shot!

It’s just a nit-pick for me, but it strikes me as seriously over-analyzing things. We know that goalkeepers guess most of the time. Yes, the shooters body shape may provide such a telling tell that a backstopper does actually read the movement in real time. But mostly it’s just a guess.

Sometimes they guess correctly. At that point, the well-considered, confident strike becomes, well, “not the best penalty kick.”

Forlan’s shot? It wasn’t bad, directed well enough into the lower right corner, with sufficient pace.

But Brazil’s Julio Cesar got there. Credit the goalkeeper for making the moment – but let’s not get all hyper-critical and elitist about the shot takers. Sometimes, luck and fortune are just on the other guy’s side.

  1. dfstell - Jun 26, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    Oh….so many things in soccer are the product of luck and randomness….averages and standard deviations. I hate when announcers talk about a player being HOT because he’s hit two amazing free kicks in a week. Then he goes COLD and misses 20 in a row. His true success rate is 2/22 and that’s probably about right…..he was never HOT or COLD……he’s just regressing to mean over time.

    Same thing with PKs. I do think there are places where the PK taker can place the ball where the keeper can’t get it (unless commits early), but to hit those corners with real pace means risking putting the ball wide or over.

  2. bobinkc - Jun 26, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    Gee, Steve, what with you being a world-class soccer blogger and all, I thought would already know that announcers, just like bloggers, always have to say something to fill up otherwise dead airtime and continue to earn their princely salaries.

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