Goalkeepers shine in the shootoutsTraditionally, the penalty shootout has favored the kicker, but in this World Cup, the goalies have been outstanding
In three penalty shootouts so far, eight of the 24 shots taken on goal have been saved. Another three shots missed entirely.
Have the goalies mutated and adopted themselves to the speed of a ball after it rockets off the kicker’s foot?
Not likely. Instead, the goalies have been studying the habits of their opponents and coming prepared for an event that is dreaded by soccer players, often called the cruelest part of any soccer game.
The German team, which beat Argentina 4-2 in a penalty shootout to advance to the semifinals, made that clear in a press conference over the weekend.
Germany’s team manager Oliver Bierhoff told reporters that prior to the World Cup, the German national team collected two years worth of data on the Argentinean players’ penalty kicks and analyzed their behavior.
Referring to German goalie Jens Lehmann, the manager said, “He was told who usually takes penalties on the Argentine team, he was shown videos of all the penalties they shot in the past two years, who shot them and whether they shot left or right.”
Based on the information, Lehmann guessed correctly to block shots from Roberto Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso.
He allowed two goals, but dove in the right direction both times.
Germany’s Swiss-born chief scout Urs Siegenthaler was responsible for coming up with the goalies’ strategy.
One rule that may have helped the goalies is that since the 2002 World Cup they are allowed to move left and right instead of standing motionless in the middle.
Goalies are using this premovement before the kick to lead kickers to kick the ball into a desired direction. Lehmann moved slightly to the right before Argentinean player Esteban Cambiasso took his penalty shot.
Cambiasso shot to the left but Lehmann dove to the left as if he had been waiting for Cambiasso to do just that.
by Brian Lee