World Cup: How To Score the Perfect Penalty?

JD Football has already analysed the current best and worst penalty takers in our previous report, but is it down to luck or skill whether these penalties converted? We wanted to know, so dug a little deeper and assessed 315 penalties taken by the key players in this year’s World Cup 2018 to see what findings could be gained from analysing target areas.

For each of the 315 penalties assessed, we noted which section of the goal was targeted and whether the penalty was a goal, save or miss, which was then collated to show the most successful and least successful areas for scoring penalties.

Where are most and least penalties scored?

where are most penalties scored?

  • Most penalties were scored in the bottom left of the goal 
  • 74% of all penalties analysed were successful goals
  • The fewest penalties were scored in the top centre 

The bottom left of the goal proved the most successful converting area, with the bottom right a close second. This highlights that most penalty takers aim for either of the bottom corners, with the bottom left being slightly more popular than the bottom right. Of course penalties struck well into the bottom corners are difficult to save, this would explain why these areas of the goal are so popular with penalty takers.

43% successful penalties were scored in the left third of the goal, which may suggest that right footed players prefer to strike penalties within the left hand side of the goal. 37% Of penalties were scored in the right hand third of the goal.

Top Target Area

penalty target areas world cup players

  • The top left has the highest guarantee of scoring
  • Just 12% of penalties were scored in the top corners 

Penalty takers who were accurate enough to aim in the top left or right of the goal generally all scored, as no penalties were saved here. Penalties aimed on target here are guaranteed to score, however penalty takers were reluctant to aim here. Only Cristiano Ronaldo was brave enough to consistently try this: 4 of his 10 most recent penalties were successfully scored in the top right (keepers top left,) suggesting the Real Madrid and Portugal star favours shooting here.

This figure may seem a little high, however there were a number of left footed players in our survey, such as: Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Antoine Griezmann and Mesut Özil who all seem to favour this side of the goal. Only 20% of all penalties scored were successful in the middle of the goal ) with players such as Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Mile Jedinak opting to shoot here.

Skip through the gallery below to see where all 33 players and keepers went.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Tim Cahill
Thomas Müller
Thibaut Courtois
Sergio Romero
Sergio Ramos
Rui Patrício
Robin Olsen
Paul Pogba
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior
Olivier Giroud
Mohamed Salah
Mile Jedinak
Mesut Özil
Mathew Ryan
Marco Reus
Manuel Neuer
Lionel Messi
Jordan Pickford
Jamie Vardy
Hugo Lloris
Luis Suárez
Fernando Muslera
Harry Kane
Ederson Santana de Moraes
Eden Hazard
Diego Costa
Cesc Fàbregas
David de Gea
Antoine Griezmann
Aaron Mooy
Cristiano Ronaldo

Looking through each player’s last 10 penalties gives us good insight to patterns of behaviour and decision making. It’s common for many players to target the same sections, primarily the bottom left or right spots, with few brave enough to try the middle.

Saves and Misses

where are most penalties saved?

  • Most penalties were saved in the bottom left
  • 49% of penalties were saved to the left
  • 76% went either left or right

Of 64 penalties were saved overall and 19 missed the target completely which accounted for 6% of all penalties. As with the penalties scored, most penalties were saved in the bottom third of the goal. Our stats showed  many keepers are opting to dive left or right and staying low when trying to save. As with the optimal penalty success area, the bottom left of the goal was where most penalties were saved.

most penalty missed saved area goal

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