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Cracking the Penalty Code

Winnin a Shootout in Football

George Vergouw • ebook • epub

  • Samenvatting

    Winning a Shootout in Football

    George Vergouw

    Football experts in England and the Netherlands keep preaching that
    practicing penalty kicks is a waste of time. To them, shootouts are
    nothing more than a ‘lottery’. Be that as it may, winning a World Cup
    or European Championship has become almost impossible without
    surviving at least one penalty shootout. There is compelling evidence
    that teams perform significantly better when they practice correctly.

    Vergouw offers a groundbreaking new approach to solving important
    questions surrounding the penalty shootout. He believes The Three
    Lions will benefit from this publication and he hopes they win their
    first trophy since 1966. It goes without saying, after taking perfect

    George Vergouw was the first author to publish a book on big data in
    football in his internationally acclaimed book De Strafschop. He wrote
    Cracking the Penalty Code especially for English and Dutch football
    professionals and fans.
  • Productinformatie
    Binding : Epub
    Auteur : George Vergouw
    Bestandstype : epub
    Distributievorm : Ebook (digitaal)
    Aantal pagina's : Afhankelijk van e-reader
    Beveiliging : Digitaal watermerk (social DRM)   Informatie 
    Uitgeverij : Vergouw Pubblishing
    ISBN : 9789083339030
    Datum publicatie : 04-2024
  • Inhoudsopgave


    Yard 1: Cracking the code

    Yard 2: Why?

    Why is this shootout book important?
    Why are the greatest players not always the best penalty takers?
    Why do professionals in football keep saying practicing
    penalties is nonsense?

    Yard 3: Who?

    Who is Antonin Panenka and why is he important?
    Who takes better penalties, Lionel Messi, or Cristiano Ronaldo?
    Who should take responsibility before, during and after a shootout?

    Yard 4: What?

    What are successful ‘psychological warfare’-methods?
    What are the rules of the penalty shootout?
    What strategies can goalkeepers use?

    Yard 5: Which?

    Which team has the biggest chance of winning, team A or Team B?
    Which team has the biggest chance of winning, home or away?
    Which national football teams are good at taking penalties?

    Yard 6: Where?

    Where should players aim and place the ball?

    Yard 7: When?

    When did the shootout become part of football?
    When can you honestly say a shootout is a ‘lottery’?

    Yard 8: What if?

    What if England and the Netherlands would have been as
    good at penalties as Germany?
    What if Artificial Intelligence (AI) would give shootout advice?

    Yard 9: How?

    How do women perform in shootouts?
    How can players learn to cope with stress during shootouts?
    How can England and the Netherlands win shootouts?

    Yard 10: How much?

    How much should players practice?

    Yard 11: How long?

    How long should the run-up be?

    Yard 12: Selected questions





    Index of names

    About the Author
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‘Well, you can’t practice penalties, can you.’

I do not know how many times I have heard these words since De
Strafschop (The Penalty) was published in 2000 and achieved cult
status in the Netherlands. At that time, I was a football maverick
with a keen interest in football tactics and statistics. Although not
translated, the book also struck a chord in England. This wasn’t
much of a surprise to me. When I visited England in the 1990s and
gave lectures near Birmingham and Leamington Spa, I only had to
mention the shootouts against Germany (1990 and 1996) to bring
tears to the eyes of even the toughest and roughest English fans.

The number of English footballers missing an important penalty
in a shootout has become a seemingly endless affair. Chris Waddle,
Paul Ince, David Batty, Jamie Carrager, Frank Lampard, Marcus
Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Gareth Southgate, Darius
Vassell, David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Ashley Young. Am I missing
one or two? Fortunately, the English now have The Three Lionesses,
the women’s team that seems to take the penalty seriously!

So, during virtually every World Cup or European Championship for
which The Three Lions qualified and reached the knockout
stages, my phone rang, and a polite English journalist asked me if
I could comment on the enigma of the penalty. Now, many years
after the first edition appeared, I decided that an English-language,
completely rewritten version of my book De Strafschop would be
welcome and appropriate. It contains a new approach that answers
questions I received from journalists, students, participants and
attendees during courses and lectures in the more than twenty
years since the publication of my first football book.

Reference point: Panenka

I have been addicted to the penalty ever since AFC-Ajax player
Dick Helling missed the decisive penalty against Levski Spartak
Sofia in 1975. He had entered the field in the 112th minute as ‘the
penalty kick expert’ but failed and missed by shooting towards the
stars. A fact that unfortunately haunted him for the rest of his
(professional football) life. His miss meant the definitive end to the
first series of glorious years of the great club from Amsterdam. A
year later, Antonin Panenka’s brilliant and still influential penalty
in the 1976 European Championship final between Czechoslovakia
and West Germany warmed the hearts of millions. It also taught
the Germans a hard lesson. If you miss important penalties, you
don’t win trophies.

I had seen both penalties live on television and was impressed
by Panenka’s calmness and technique and amazed by the naivete
of Ajax and Helling. Shortly afterwards my own football career
ended due to a chronic knee injury. The only thing I could do was
to take penalties against a garage door near my parental home. A
few years later, around 1980, I was sure that my injury would heal
quickly. I had to make sure I was ready for the moment when I had
to take the decisive penalty against Die Mannschaft at the 1986 or
1990 World Championships. I practiced penalty kicks with a tennis
ball. The story at the time was that many Brazilian players, mostly
from the favelas, did not have enough money to buy a good ball.
By practicing with a tennis ball, their technique became superior
to that of the rest of the world. So why not learn from the best?
I was completely absorbed in my whole penalty idea, which
lasted well into the 1990s. My favourite players became those who
could take ‘perfect penalties’, such as Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier,
Gary Lineker, Ronald Koeman, Johan Neeskens, Paul Breitner and
Andreas Brehme.
Achilles’ heel
Long story short, my injury never healed, and my personal
moment of glory never came. I would never take the last penalty
and score for the Netherlands against Germany in the final of a
major tournament. And why worry? The Netherlands has and had
enough capable players to take nice penalties, right? Well, as all
football fans around the world surely know, we don’t and neither
do the English. Penalty is the Achilles heel of both countries, and
our national and club teams have suffered many defeats since the
1970s. Sometimes in a painful way. Anyway, ‘You can’t practice
penalties, can you.’

By contrast, I often watched the Bundesliga and the German
national team. I was surprised never to hear this same, infamous
line on German television. Probably because the Germans seldom
miss but maybe also because they take Der Elfmeter very seriously.
Germans approach sports in general the same way they produce
cars, improving processes year by year by a few percent. In the end,
they build great cars. They approach penalties by doing extensive
research, always trying to find ways to improve and learn from
their mistakes. I read many (published as early as 1979) German
documents on taking penalties. So, in the end, in football, Germans
win championships by kicking great penalties.
After Die Mannschaft’s defeat against Czechoslovakia at the
1976 European Championship, virtually no German player has
missed a penalty during an important international tournament.
Uli Hoeneß may have missed in 1976, but he has paved the way for
impeccable scoring ever since. In the decades since their shootout
defeat, only Uli Stieleke has missed a penalty in a World Cup
shootout. It’s not a valid statistic, but I wouldn’t allow another Uli
to take a penalty. It’s also no surprise that naming your son Uli has
become quite unpopular in Germany.
The German scoring ability is almost perfect and is in the range
of 90-95%. That means they only miss one in fifteen to twenty
penalties. Many statistics will be shown later in this publication.
Compare this figure with those of the national teams of England
and the Netherlands. Both teams miss approximately one in
three penalties. This is a significant difference that cannot be
explained by chance alone. There must be another reason, another
explanation. This explanation is given in Cracking the Penalty Code.

Inquisitive minds
With an inquisitive mind I noticed this big difference in ‘chance’
between national teams and clubs in the period 1992 - 1998.
The Netherlands lost shootouts in major tournaments against
Denmark (1992), France (1996) and Brazil (1998). Ajax lost
the 1996 Champions League final to Juventus after a shootout.
England lost to Germany (1990 and 1996) and Argentina (1998)
and won only once against Spain (1996). While the English
and Dutch lost important shootouts in the decisive stages of
championships, the Germans often walked away with the trophies
after taking penalties that came close to perfection. After another
defeat for the Netherlands in a shootout against Brazil in the
semifinals of the 1998 World Cup, I decided to publish a book on
this subject. My main research question was: is there any point in
practicing penalty kicks or not, and if so, how can Dutch players
improve their penalty skills? I started analysing the statistics and
used all the relevant data available at the time. Moneyball (about
the successful use of data in American baseball) was released three
years later. Until then, there were only a handful of curious minds
(journalists, scientists) researching on the penalty.

No nonsense
De Strafschop was published shortly before the 2000 European
Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands. To get it
published, I had to start my own publishing company. No one was
willing to publish my manuscript. Why not? Because ‘Well, you
know, you can’t practice penalties, right? Even Johan Cruyff says that.’
Based on the analyses in my book, I argued that: a) success in
a penalty shootout was not due to luck; b) the Dutch team would
be kicked out of the European Championship in the knockout
phase after a shootout because they do not practice penalty kicks;
c) Contrary to what 99% of the Dutch population believes, Frank
de Boer and Patrick Kluivert should NOT take the penalties for
the Dutch team. Their run-up reveals the direction the ball will go;
d) Edwin van der Sar is a great goalkeeper, but a poor penalty killer;
replace him with Sander Westerveld, a much better penalty killer;
bring him onto the pitch for the last five minutes of the match to
save the penalties. ×