This was to be a historic moment for Canadian football. Within 10 minutes of their first Men’s World Cup match since 1986, Canada had the chance to score its first Men’s World Cup goal after VAR awarded a penalty against Belgium.
Bayern Munich striker Alphonso Davies, though not a regular penalty taker for club or country, stood over the ball 12 yards from Thibault Courtois’ goal. But the 6-foot-7 goaltender anticipated Davis’ shot perfectly; dropping to his right to fight him off. While the unfortunate Davis held his head in his hands, Courtois puffed out his chest and celebrated with his teammates. Belgium went on to win the game 1–0.
– World Cup 2022: news and features | Schedule | bracket
Of the nine goals scored from 14 shots on target in the group stage, the goalkeepers made a total of five saves (the highest in the history of the tournament): a save percentage of around 35% that was enjoyed by Davies, the Argentine. Lionel Messi, Pole Robert Lewandowski, Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari and Ghana’s Jordan Ayew denied it. For reference, at the 2018 World Cup there were only 13.6% of penalties at the goal in the group stage (three saves in 22 attempts), and in the 2014 World Cup the percentage was even lower – 10% (one save in 10 attempts).
In this tournament, the goalkeepers are hitting more penalties than expected given the average quality of the shots. “It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and if goaltenders continue to perform above average at this World Cup,” said goaltending data scientist John Harrison. “Or if by the end of the tournament we see that the expected number of goals (xG) before the shot is equal to xG after the shot and is equal to the number of goals scored from the penalty spot.”
– Broadcasts on Sportzshala+: La Liga, Bundesliga and more (USA)
Comfortable height for goalkeepers
Harrison leads the data department of Goalkeeper.com, a website dedicated to goalkeeping statistics and analysis. He has built several data models to track goalkeeping performance in one-on-one matches and shot avoidance, and he uses these models to determine the best goaltending styles and techniques for each game.
One data model he recently built was a penalty defense model. It uses the strength and speed of free-kicks – compared to historic Premier League penalties from the 2015-16 season – to determine xG before and after being kicked for each penalty.
Harrison insists that other penalty models typically assign the same scoring to each penalty—usually xG between 78% and 82%—but because these models typically don’t factor in penalty speed or placement in their calculations, they end up give each penalty the same performance. the same performance, regardless of whether it was sent to the top corner or to the center of the goal.
“You can’t just assign each penalty with an 82% chance because … the one above shoulder level is very rarely saved, so you need to assign a value much, much closer to 1,” he said. “Whereas, say, a side penalty that is about 2 yards from a corner on the ground will not reach 80% of the time. It might be more like a 70 something because…maybe it will squirm under the keeper even if they go in the right direction, but a decent shot at that height will be saved.”
This may explain why this group stage managed to save a higher percentage of accurate penalties. Of the 14 penalties taken so far, all but four have hit the bottom third of the goal (about 0.81 meters or below) – and only one (Gareth Bale’s penalty against the United States) hit Harrison’s model. zone “impossible to save”
The low penalty height seen so far in Qatar is different from what we saw at the 2018 World Cup, where only nine of the 24 penalties (37%) taken in the group stage were aimed at the bottom third of the goal.
Part of the reason is simple: players want their penalties to hit right on target. “If you miss the target, you literally never score,” Harrison said. “Whereas, obviously, at least if you hit low, even if he’s a yard or two from the corner… if the goalie goes the wrong way, you still score.”
Looking at the list of players who have converted this World Cup, you will see that some of them are not regular penalties (Davis from Canada and Ferran Torres from Spain), have missed high-profile penalties in the past by trying to go too high (Messi), or are in teams that may not have expected to score many goals in the World Cup (Al-Dawsari). These are all players who perhaps don’t imagine they can hit the high, unsalvable goal areas without completely missing. So instead they decided to lower their penalties, reducing the risk of missing the target but increasing the risk that their penalties would be saved.
It also explains why regular penalty takers like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Wales’ Bale felt more comfortable shooting high. “[Shooting low is] it’s a riskier strategy if you have the ability – as Bale and Ronaldo have shown – to just run up and hit higher and into a sort of higher target probability area,” Harrison said.
baiting the goalkeeper
But not everything depends on the taker; goalkeepers also played a part in some of the shots being aimed low. “Some of the takers looked like they were using technique when they were just trying to wait. [for] goalkeeper [to move] and go to the other side,” Harrison said.
This is something that has become more prominent in football in recent times, with the increasing popularity of jumping runs and sudden changes in pace. Although some players criticize their run-ups, there is a tactical reason why they stop so abruptly: they can force the goalkeeper to show which side they are going to react to sooner.
For example, a quick wide run would most likely mean a strike in the opposite direction of the player’s run (a run to the left could mean a shot to the player’s right, and vice versa). the player must rotate their hips and hit accurately from the same side they are approaching from if they are attacking the ball at high speed from a high angle.
Likewise, if the taker approaches the shot from a tighter angle, they are more likely to throw the ball over their body as this is the natural flow of the foot—more effort is required to open the hips and shoot in the opposite direction. run, and not swing the leg across the body.
The taker’s run-up pace can also give some clues to goalkeepers. If a player is attacking a penalty at pace, the kick is likely to have more power and is likely to hit the air. Thus, in this case, the goalkeeper may start to dive a little earlier in order to have a better chance of parrying a shot from a height.
On the other hand, if the player is slowly approaching the ball, there may be a lack of pace on the shot, so the goaltender will want to stay upright a little longer to better read the run-up and where it hits. plan to put the ball. Maintaining an upright position in a balanced form also avoids any clues as to where they plan to dive.
Just as goalkeepers look for clues in the run-up of players, takers look for clues about goalkeepers; and with a well-executed stutter or jump, the taker can force the goaltender to reveal his cards early.
This was seen in Bruno Fernandes’ penalty kick against Uruguay. Using a jump start, Fernandes forced goalkeeper Sergio Roche to react early to his left side, which gave him enough time to adjust to his body to shoot at Roche’s right side.
Another example is Torres’ goal against Costa Rica. Torres attacked the penalty on pace at first, and Keylor Navas tried to parry it by diving a little earlier than usual. But when Torres transitioned into a jumping step, Navas was already in the process of transitioning to the left side, so Torres was able to adjust and shoot in the opposite direction from Navas, where his momentum couldn’t be stopped.
Even without noticeable jumps, some players managed to get the goalkeepers to reveal their cards early. Messi, for example, was able to exploit the impatience of Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Alovais by forcing him to dive a little early with a slow run-up.
Messi forced Alovais to lean to the left just as he started to shoot, and this gave the Argentine star enough time to realign to shoot from the right of the goalkeeper.
“After the goaltender has already dived, if the taker is still deciding to shoot, he’s just going to make sure he rolls it into the net,” Harrison said. “They don’t care if he’s right in the corner as long as he’s not on the keeper’s side.”
Potential shootout stars?
With the playoffs starting on Saturday, fans are likely to get a few penalties as three of the last four World Cups have had four shootouts. While it’s hard to predict which goalkeeper will come out on top, there are names that could become heroes for their countries.
The Spaniard Unai Simon is one of them. Before the start of the tournament, Simon had one of the best international penalty save rates of any player who started in the World Cup.
While Simon seems to prefer to dive to the right (he dived to the right in six of the nine penalties he faced at Euro 2020), he has a lot of shootout experience at international level and that could play a role. In addition, Simon has a good arsenal of diving techniques. He is comfortable jumping farther and higher up the net, which allows him to shoot closer to the corners (like his save against Italy’s Manuel Locatelli at Euro 2020); the dummy steps one way and then dives the other (for example, his save against Swiss Manuel Akanji); or stay in the center of the goal in case the player decides to shoot there.
“If you do a lot of different things, then those strikers who try to read you or those …