It was the punishment It was invented in England on 14 February 1891. It was the last minute of the FA Cup quarter-final match between Notts County and Stoke City when a County defender blocked a shot with his hand on the goal line. Stoke were awarded a free-kick just centimeters from the goal line, and the goalkeeper, as was perfectly legal at the time, stood directly in front of the ball. The Stoke player, unable to do anything but kick the ball straight at him, saw his shot blocked in farcical circumstances.

In a Later meeting At the IFAB Board of Directors in Glasgow on 2 June 1891, a proposal for a new rule for penalty kicks was put forward by the Irish Football Association. The board agreed, and thus decades of pain and joy were born. somewhat. The original rule states that players can take a penalty kick “from any point 12 yards from the goal line” and the goalkeeper can advance at least 6 yards to save it. But over time, this has been modified and improved to become what we know and love/hate today.

The probability of scoring any penalty kick is about 70 percent. In the 2022 World Cup, 22 of the 29 penalty kicks in the match were scored (76%). Until the start of this year’s European Championship, 88 penalty kicks had been awarded in the tournament, of which 62 (70 percent) were scored. Penalty shootouts – which were introduced in the 1976 Euros and 1978 World Cup – also have roughly the same conversion rate. In World Cup penalty shootouts, 222 out of 320 penalty kicks (69 percent) were successful. In Euro penalty shootouts, the conversion rate is slightly higher: 178 out of 232 (77 percent).

But why should penalty kicks be taken from 12 yards? Simply put: that’s what the FA decided in 1891. And it’s likely never changed, because scoring seven out of 10 penalties gives a good mix of risk, reward and drama.

Move the ball closer or further away and the odds start to swing one way or another. As John Wesson points out in Football flagTaking into account air drag, a perfectly directed ‘penalty kick’ at 80mph into the top corner of the goal could, in theory, beat the goalkeeper from 35 yards out. Move 10 yards or closer to the target and the probability of scoring increases exponentially. At 3 yards, it’s almost 100 percent.

Seemingly, by chance, 12 yards is pretty much the sweet spot: enough penalties are applied to reward skill and good positioning, and enough penalties are saved to reward good guesswork, research and agility by goalkeepers. Of the 88 European Championship penalties awarded ahead of the 2024 tournament, only 18 were saved. Englishman Jordan Pickford is one goalkeeper who used the past behavior of penalty takers and their preferred goal positions to predict their future options, keeping this data on his bottle for reference.

For a striker, relying on physics to score the perfect penalty kick depends on two things: speed and direction. At 80 mph, a goalie has about a third of a second to make a save. Since this is similar to the reaction time, the only chance of saving it is to correctly guess where it is going. This is where placement comes into play. Research conducted by the University of Bath in 2012 found a “dive envelope” Which any guard can cover if he rushes in any direction with maximum force. The probability of scoring inside a dive envelope is 50 percent. The probability of scoring outside the dive envelope is 80 percent.

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