Sunday, July 02, 2006

Paying the penalty

What is it with England and crashing out of tournaments on penalties?
Italia '90, England '96, France '98, Portugal '04 - all lost on spot kicks.

We - England - have won penalty shoot outs before; we beat Spain in Euro '96 before the Germany Semi final catastrophe, so it can be done, but we have now lost a lot more than we've won.

  Posted by Picasa What are the reasons for this - is it pressure? That should be the same for both sides. Expectation - why more pressure on England than Portugal yesterday? Better keeper or penalty technique? Maybe, but would you pick Ricardo or Lehmann in front of Robinson, or Seaman or Shilton in years gone by?

Way back when I was young, I saw a German movie - The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty Kick. It was a bit arty-farty, and involved murdering girlfriends etc, but the crux of the question why he did it was based on being a goalkeeper and facing a penalty. You stand there, and hope to save it. Ok, what to do? Do you just dive one way (ala Robinson, Ricardo, Lehmann, etc) and hope that the kick went that way, or presume you are good enough to save the kick when you see which way it goes (ala Shilton '90 or Seaman '96) or maybe do some homework (ala Keily vs Croydon) and study where the taker puts his kicks, or just stand up and hope it comes near you (Andersen vs Chelsea in the League cup). All four tactics can be good enough. But what if the kicker knows that you are going to do one of those four - which he obviously does - and what if he knows exactly which one you are going to do? And what if you know that he knows!

Shilton had little chance in '90 because, I believe that, the Germans knew if they hit the ball hard, he wouldn't be able to get there in time. If they had placed the ball in corners deliberately, he may have saved one.

In '90 and '96, the German keepers just stood there and hoped for an English mistake - Waddle and Southgate obliged.

This is the conundrum, if you know what to do, but don't know if your opponnent knows what you are going to do, what do you do?

 Posted by PicasaLampard nearly always places his Premiership kicks to the goalies right. He probably knew that Ricardo knew this; he switched sides yesterday and the kick was saved. Gerrard always thumps his, Ricardo knew and stood and saved. Carragher (left) put his first kick to Ricardo's left, then switched on the re-take. Why? Because Ricardo knew which way he wanted to put it.

Is this pressure from media, players themselves, fans, expectation, or all the above? Yes. How can you control this - you can't.

At Charlton, we have one special memory of penalty shoot-outs - Wembley 98. 7-6, and all that. Was Sasa a better keeper than Perez? No. What did our penalty taking heroes do? They all, every one of them, put the kick in the same place - to Perez's right. Was this a deliberate ploy - I don't know but I doubt it. He dived right, left, and stood still, but every kick went to the same corner. What pressure on Shaun Newton when he was due to take the seventh kick - should he go to the same area, or change to the other side? He kept his nerve. Moments later Michael Gray did not. History...

Charlton have been in shoot outs before and since - I've seen us lose at Cambridge, win at Everton, and beat Luton too fairly recently, and there have been others I don't recall the details of. Charlton are no better than any other team when it comes to taking penalties, and we haven't had a specialist penaty saving keeper either over the years.

Ultimately, penalty shoot outs are all down to luck. Charlton have had some over the years, but England haven't...

Jens Lehmann apparently studied video of every penalty taken by all of Argentina's takers over the last two years. He took a piece of paper out with him detailing where each player prefers to put them and etc.

In stark contrast Robinson showed how dreadfully underprepared he was, I would be surprised if he bothered to study at all.

Luck may be a huge part of it but there is no substitution for preparation as Lehmann - and no doubt Ricardo - proved.

By the way - whatever happened to the keeper staying on his line until the ball's kicked? (Law 14 - The Penalty Kick)
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