Choking Under Pressure: Penalty Shootouts in Football. The Role of Psychological Advantage During Penalty Shootouts in European Club
Author: Runi Charankov
Student Number: 12262854
BSc: Business Administration Supervisor: drs. Rob van Hemert Submission Date: 29.06.2021
Statement of Originality
This document is written by Student Runi Charankov who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Choking under pressure is a common issue in sports that occurs in the most intense moments and when the stakes are high. In football, there are games where the penalty shootout is used to determine the winner and a single miss might cost a championship. This study analyzes the relationship between equalizing goals and outcome of shootouts, moderated by home pitch advantage. Existing research on the topic found evidence in favor of teams that scored equalizing goals or have home pitch advantage. It is hypothesized that an equalizing goal for the team that has home pitch advantage would improve their chances of winning an eventual penalty shootout.
In contrast to previous studies which have a larger sample size including international tournaments, this research only focuses on club competitions. A sample of 168 games in
European club competitions is analyzed using a binary logistic regression. In contradiction with previous research, no support is shown for the hypotheses, suggesting that equalizing goals and home pitch advantage cannot be used as valid predictors for the outcome of a penalty shootout.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 5
2. Theoretical Framework 7
3. Methods 11
• Data 11
• Variables 11
• Data Analyses 12
4. Results 13
• Descriptive Statistics and Means Tables 13
• Correlations 14
• Binary Logistic Regression 15
5. Discussion 19
• Limitations and Alternative Explanations 20
• Practical Implications and Advice for Future Research 23
• Conclusion 25
6. References 27
“How did he not score that?”-A question every football fan has asked himself at a certain point in time. Football players train for hours every day, for decades, mastering the art of their sport.
Such dedication should normally result in scoring a seemingly easy tap-in, or the decisive penalty. If the skill level was the only factor that has influence over the ability of a player to score a goal, the game would be quite easy to predict and therefore less exciting, thus not making it the most popular sport in the world (Kuper & Szymanski, 2018). Psychological factors are extremely vital in sports. Choking under pressure, defined as performing worse than expected in situations of high importance (Baumeister, 1984), is an often occurrence in various areas of life and sports. Beilock and Carr (2001) found that thinking about the action and concentrating on it, during a moment of pressure, would not improve the outcome of it. In football, factors like fans, stadiums, equalizers and fatigue play a key role in the outcome of a game. The aim of this study is to determine whether psychological factors such as equalizing goals are applicable in penalty shootouts, and how home pitch advantage moderates the relationship between equalizing goals and outcome.
Penalty shootouts in football decide the winner of a game when two teams, facing each other in the knockout phase of a tournament, end the regular time of a match in a draw.
Shootouts are therefore considered as the most dramatic and pressure-infused moments in football (Jordet et al., 2007). Jordet et al. (2007) also suggests that stress and pressure influence the outcome of penalty kicks more than skill level and fatigue. Slutter et al. (2021) studied brain activity related to missing penalties, suggesting that areas of the brain responsible for executing tasks were activated more when not experiencing pressure, whereas areas of the brain not relevant to the task activate under pressure, and are related to anxiety and missing penalties.
Psychological factors affect the player’s performance negatively and are the important variables to look at when trying to predict the outcome. Having that in mind, it can be hypothesized that psychological advantage in football exists, and players that are less susceptible to factors affecting their psychological state will perform better.
This paper intends to investigate the gap previous research has left relatively unexplored and that is the factors that might affect the possibility for a team to have a psychological
advantage during a shootout and why it occurs. A team, scoring an equalizer during a game, might also play a beneficial role during an eventual penalty shootout. Lyttleton (2015) found that teams that scored last during the game had a 61% chance to win the shootout. Two-legged tournament fixtures also consider that away goals weigh more than home goals, which is why fixtures that end in a draw, result in a winner, namely the team that scored more away goals.
Therefore, home-pitch advantage is proven to be beneficial for teams in football. Given that previous research has found evidence that both equalizers and home advantage have an impact over the outcome, it is likely that the simultaneous occurrence of the two could lead to a moderating effect that strengthens the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. These hypotheses lead to the following research question: “To what extent does an equalizing goal for the team falling behind in score affect the outcome of penalty shootouts, considering the moderating effect of home-pitch advantage in European club competitions?”.
Better understanding of psychological advantage in football is what this study aims to achieve. It could be applied to predict more accurately the outcome of games as well as assist football managers in understanding better the underlying psychological factors that affect the performance of their players, and how it may be improved. It can be also used as a building block for similar research in other sports where performing under pressure is an issue. A better
understanding of performance during intense situations might lead to a solution for choking under pressure. From a scientific standpoint, it would be beneficial to understand whether physical training or a player’s confidence, considering the hypotheses mentioned above, is more significant during shootouts.
The following paragraphs intend to explore what previous research has found, focusing on the research gap related to psychological advantage. The methods section will present the collected data and how it is going to be analyzed. The results section will present the analyses and their outcomes, followed by an interpretation and explanation in the discussion paragraph.
Equalizing goals are proven to have a positive effect on outcome of shootouts (Lyttleton, 2015).
Iso-Ahola and Mobily (1980) introduce the concept of “shift of momentum” between two competing sides. Pollard (2005) found that home advantage is also a good predictor of the winner, stating that English teams win at least 60% of their home games. This research will be used to analyze penalty shootouts, to determine whether psychological advantage occurs assuming home advantage and equalizing goals are present.
Shooting the ball is one of the main elements in football. Penalties are taken eleven meters away from goal, facing only the goalkeeper. They are recognized as a routine skill for every footballer and are mostly expected to result in a goal since the ball is expected to reach the goal in around 0.2 seconds (van Hemert et al., 2021). Comparisons can be drawn from other sports that include similar essential skills. A study by Beilock and Carr (2001) suggests that a golfer’s performance declines which thus reduces their odds of winning when focusing on a complex, proceduralized skill, such as the putting shot which is similar to penalty kick taking in
football. Basketball also has a similar element - the free throw. Athletes take thousands of free throws during practice, yet they still tend to perform considerably worse in game situations.
According to the official website of the NBA, LeBron James, considered one of the greatest players by fans, journalists and fellow players, converts 74% of those shots which is just above the average 73% of all players in the league, despite him not being an average player in terms of stats and achievements. The fact that LeBron James has such an average score, could be
attributed to the psychological effect of the situation making him choke under pressure, rather than his skillset.
A similar stereotype surrounds a great football player, Lionel Messi. People tend to notice that he misses “important penalties”. Lionel Messi notoriously missed a penalty against Chile during the 2016 Copa America, and Chile were crowned as champions. The miss did not directly result in the loss, but when the team’s captain misses, it could affect the performance of shooters later. A paper by van Hemert et al. (2021) has similar findings, suggesting that setting a bad example might lead to increased pressure for other shooters. Jordet and Hartman (2008) introduced the concept of positively and negatively valenced shots in shootouts, meaning the shot either directly results in a win, or respectively, a loss. We cannot entirely apply this concept for in-game penalties (during regular time), but Messi’s most recent miss in-game was in the round of 16 of the Champions League against Paris-Saint Germain on March 10th, 2021, in the added time of the first half which is regarded as an important psychological moment in football games to score. An analysis by JD Sport Australia, took the penalty conversion rates of players in the top 5 Leagues (England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France) before the 2018 World Cup, ranking Messi 16th among 22 players (sample size for many of the players was small N<25).
This is not an impressive feat, knowing that he is the player that was crowned best player in the
world 6 times and is holding the record. This result is in line with the findings of Jordet (2009) that suggest that players with high current public status (FIFA World Player of the Year) performed worse and engaged in escapist behavior. Many papers take purely psychological, or more subjective factors, such as looking away or taking too long to place the ball in
consideration. Apesteguia and Palacios-Huerta (2010) introduced first-mover advantage which states that the team that takes the first penalty kick is more likely to win. The study shows that first movers have a 21%-point advantage over second movers in their winning probabilities.
Kocher (2012), does further research on the topic, but finds no significant evidence in favor of first movers.
The first hypothesis is based on Lyttleton (2015) and states that teams that equalize in regular time of games gain psychological advantage in an eventual shootout. According to Iso-Ahola and Mobily (1980), out of two persons competing, the one that has psychological momentum has the better chance to win. I hypothesize that such psychological momentum is created after a team scores an equalizer, leading to psychological advantage. Teams that considered the game “to be over” and get equalized might choke after realizing that the game is yet to be won. Testing this hypothesis will allow for a better understanding of psychological advantage gained during games and emphasize the importance of teams competing until the very end for an equalizer.
The second hypothesis of this research states that teams playing on their home turf have an advantage during games and shootouts. Referring to Courneya and Carron (1992), home advantage is well-documented and is present when teams win more than 50% of their home
games in a balanced home-away schedule. The latter also states that little systematic research has been conducted to determine the nature and causes of this phenomenon. Pollard (2005) found proof for home-advantage in football where English teams won 60% of home games at the lowest. The researcher also found that crowds do not play a big role in home-advantage. The main reason for home-advantage was found to be the player’s familiarity with their own stadium which leads them to being more comfortable in situations of high pressure and stakes. Dohmen (2008) examined this effect for the German Bundesliga and found that away teams score slightly more, contradictory to the findings of Pollard (2005). By investigating this hypothesis, I intend to find statistical evidence in favor of the psychological advantage teams have in familiar
conditions on their home stadium.
The third hypothesis explores the moderating effect of home-pitch advantage on the relationship between equalizing goals, shot conversion and outcome of shootouts. According to the second hypothesis, I suggest an enhanced relationship of moderation. Considering the shift in
momentum (Iso-Ahola & Mobily, 1980), I expect a home equalizer to lead to a bigger
psychological advantage for the team that equalized. The reasoning behind this hypothesis is that when the home team equalizes it will once again be boosting the feeling of familiarity of being ahead or winning at their home stadium (Pollard, 2005).
Figure 1. Conceptual Model
Equalizing Goal Outcome of Shootout
Home Pitch Advantage
Data was collected online using www.transfermarkt.com and www.soccerway.com by several University of Amsterdam students, as well as a supervisor, for knock-out tournaments in
England, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, and international tournaments, namely the FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and Copa America. This research focused on European club competition and the entries for
international tournaments were excluded from the dataset. A dummy variable “clubcomp”
(1=Club competition, 0=international competition) was created to indicate games played on a club level. After that the “Select File” function in SPSS (Version 25) was utilized to select only club games and delete international ones from the dataset. Games played on a neutral venue would not allow for home-advantage testing but could still be tested for equalizing goals. Data included 168 games from European club tournaments (2008-2009 until 2020-2021) for data analysis. 124 games (73.8%) had an equalizing goal in them whereas 44 games (26.8%) ended in a goalless draw. Games played on a neutral pitch accounted for 16.1% (27 games) of the dataset.
The dependent variable of the research is the outcome of shootouts recorded as a dichotomous variable where 1=winner and 0=loser. The independent variable in the conceptual model was the equalizing goal. It included two variables, namely equalizing goal, indicating whether a game had an equalizer scored in it, and no equalizer, marking the games that had no equalizing goal. A third variable, conceded, was created for the analysis, indicating the team that conceded the equalizer. The independent variable home pitch advantage indicated the home team (1=home
team, 0=neutral or away). Home pitch advantage served to test the potential advantage of home teams as a predictor variable and moderate the relationship between equalizing goal and shootout success as a moderator, in favor of the home teams scoring an equalizer. The variable away marked the away team in a game (1=away team, 0=home or neutral). The variable neutral was recorded as a dummy variable (1=neutral venue, 0=non-neutral venue).
The research used two control variables to rule out alternative explanations. The first control variable was highest market value (1=higher market value, 0=lower market value), indicating the more expensive team expressed in millions of Euros. The second control variable was first mover advantage (1=first mover, 0=second to move) indicating which team took the first shot in the shootout.
First, descriptive statistics were provided for the variables used in the analysis. Second, means tables were created, with winner as the dependent variable, to show the frequency for the
outcome variable, considering equalizing goal, home pitch advantage, highest market value, and first mover advantage.
A correlation table was created to test the association between all main variables as well as the control variables. Pearson correlations were considered with correlations smaller than 0.15 considered as poor, between 0.15 and 0.30 considered as fair, and above 0.30 considered as good.
Following the descriptive statistics and means tables, three binary logistic regression analyses (Enter method) were conducted to examine two multivariate associations. The first binary logistic regression was used to test the first hypothesis with equalizing goal as the
independent variable. The second binary logistic regression used home pitch advantage as a predictor variable. The third binary logistic regression, excluding the games played on a neutral stadium to allow for accurate testing, was ran to test the moderating effect. All of the logistic regressions included the control variables first mover advantage and highest market value as covariates. IBM SPSS (version 25) was used to perform the statistical analyses. The significance level for the analyses was set at 0.05. To interpret the relative measure of effect the ODDs Ratios were used.
Descriptive Statistics and Means Tables
The total games resulting in a penalty shootout in European national competitions from 2008 to 2021 is 168. Games that had an equalizing goal in them were 124, accounting for 73.8% of total games. 27 games (16.1%) were played on a neutral venue.
Table 1: Win Percentages for Independent and Control Variables
Variable Win Percentage Frequency in Games
Home 48.0% 70.5 (71)
Away 52.0% 70.5 (71)
Neutral 50.0% 27
Scored equalizer 46.0% 62
Conceded 54.0% 62
No Equalizer 50.0% 44
Highest Market Value 57.0% 84
First Mover Advantage 49.0% 84
Table 1 presents the results of the means testing. We can see that the team that conceded an equalizing goal won 54% of games, whereas the team that scored the equalizer won 46% of their games. The means table shows that the home team won 48% of penalty shootouts, in comparison with the away team, which won 52% of shootouts. The results show that the team that has a higher market value won 57% of penalty shootouts. Teams that had first mover advantage by taking the first penalty in a shootout won on 49% of all occasions.
Table 2: Correlations
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Outcome of Shootout \
Equalizing Goal -.062 \
Home Team -.030 .125* \
No Equalizer .000 -.456* -.026 \
Neutral Venue .000 -.032 -.372** .071 \
First Mover -.012 .025 .006 .000 .000 \
Highest Market Value .131** -.074 -.030 .000 .000 -.071 \
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed)
*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed)
Table 2 above presents the correlations between the variables in the research. The research included the number of variables for each category minus 1 since the equalizing goal and home pitch advantage were coded as dummy variables. The independent variable equalizing goal has a poor negative correlation (r=-0.062) with the dependent variable outcome of shootout, which is however insignificant (r=0.130). The variable home pitch advantage also has a poor negative
correlation (r=-0.030) with the outcome variable, but the correlation is again not significant (r=0.
291). However, we see a poor positive and significant correlation between home pitch advantage and equalizing goal (r=0.125, r=0.011). The control variable highest market value has a poor positive correlation with outcome of shootouts (r=0.131, r=0.008). The other correlations that were flagged significant in the table can be disregarded because they are between variables like neutral venue and home team, and equalizing goal and no equalizer, which are mutually
exclusive. No other significant correlations can be seen in the correlations table.
Binary Logistic Regression
Table 3: Binary Logistic Regression for Hypothesis 1
Variables Outcome of shootout
Odds Ratio (p-value)
Equalizing Goal 0.767 (0.307)
No Equalizer 0.876 (0.638)
Home Pitch Advantage 0.911 (0.703)
Neutral 0.955 (0.886)
First Mover Advantage 0.995 (0.983)
Highest Market Value 1.660 (0.022)
1. Binary Logistic Regression testing the effect of Equalizing Goal on Outcome of Shootout.
Conceded is reference group.
Referring to the first hypothesis, teams that score an equalizing goal during the game gain a psychological advantage (Lyttleton, 2015) increasing their chances to win an eventual
shootout. The binary logistic regression table shows the significance of the variables in the model and the change in the predicted odds, whether the predictor variable is 1=present or 0=not present in a certain game. We see that the variable equalizing goal is not significant with
r=0.307 and Exp(B)=0.767. If the Exp(B) were significant for the variable equalizing goal, it
would mean that an equalizing goal would lead to a decrease in the odds of winning for the team that scored an equalizer by a factor of 0.767. These findings are contrary to the expectations of Hypothesis 1. Even in the case of a significant test, the relationship between equalizing goal and outcome of shootout would be in the opposite direction from the one in the first hypothesis. We do not have enough statistical evidence in support of the first hypothesis.
The binary logistic regression shows no significant effect of the control variable first mover advantage with Exp(B)=0.995, r=0.983. We identify a significant effect of the other control variable, highest market value. The Exp(B)=1.660, r=0.22, shows an increase in the odds of winning a penalty shootout by a factor of 2.009, in favor of the more expensive team. We could say that the market value of a team is a good predictor for the outcome of a penalty shootout.
Table 4: Binary Logistic Regression for Hypothesis 2
Variables Outcome of Shootout
Odds Ratio (p-value)
Home Pitch Advantage 0.905 (0.681)
Neutral 0.960 (0.900)
First Mover Advantage 0.994 (0.979)
Highest Market Value 1.666 (0.021)
Conceded 1.233 (0.364)
. Binary Logistic Regression testing the effect of Home Pitch Advantage on Outcome of Shootout. Away is reference group.
The second hypothesis states that teams playing on their home turf will have an advantage due to familiarity with their own stadium (Pollard, 2005). The variables equalizing and no equalizer were not utilized in this regression, because they showed no significant effect in
the previous analysis. The logistic regression table shows no significant effect of home pitch advantage for the home team (Exp(B)=0.905, r=0.681). A significant effect would mean that the home team’s odds to win would decrease by a factor of 0.905. The non-significant result of the logistic regression does not show enough statistical evidence in support of Hypothesis 2.
Table 5: Binary Logistic Regression for Hypothesis 3
Variables Outcome of Shootout
Odds Ratio (p-value) Home Pitch Advantage=.00
First Mover Advantage 0.969 (0.915)
Highest Market Value 1.571 (0.124)
Equalizing Goal 0.667 (0.239)
No Equalizer 0.885 (0.737
Home Pitch Advantage=1.00
First Mover Advantage 1.026 (0.939)
Highest Market Value 1.852 (0.078)
Equalizing Goal 0.904 (0.801)
No Equalizer 0.832 (0.692)
1. Binary Logistic Regression testing the moderating effect of Home Pitch Advantage on Equalizing Goal. Neutral games were excluded for this regression.
The third hypothesis states that the home team scoring an equalizer will enhance its chances of winning, building on the expectations of the first two hypotheses, considering the shift in momentum factor introduced by (Iso-Ahola & Mobily, 1980). Table 5 represents the third binary logistic regression, which excludes games played on a neutral stadium, to test the hypothesized moderating effect of equalizing goal on home pitch advantage versus the reference group of away teams. For the away teams, we see that an equalizing goal (Exp(B)=0.667,
r=0.239) and no equalizer (Exp(B)=0.885, r=0.737) have no significant effect. We see findings,
similar to the ones from the first and second binary logistic regressions. The hypothesized moderation effect of home pitch advantage on the relationship between equalizing goal and outcome of shootout is not significant (Exp(B)=0.904, r=801). Even if the moderating effect was significant, it would have the opposite effect on the relationship between the two variables, to the one proposed in the third hypothesis. In case of a significant effect, the team that scores an equalizing goal and has home pitch advantage would have its odds of winning decreased by a factor of 0.904. Another finding is that the highest market value shows no significant effect for both home and away teams since we have a smaller sample size with less observations, leading to an increase of the p-value in this regression (Exp(B)=1.854, r= (0.078).
The results of the first and second binary logistic regression analyses, as well as the means table, show that in the case of significant effects, the team that scored an equalizer, regardless of home advantage, is seemingly unfavored to win. Given these results, we do not have enough statistical evidence to show support for the third hypothesis.
To conclude the results and analysis, no support was found for the three hypotheses. We found that the market value of a team is a good indicator for the outcome of a penalty shootout in the first two binary logistic regressions. The results suggest that the team that was behind in score could have worse odds of winning a shootout, if the results were significant. The same statement holds for teams that have home pitch advantage. The discussion section to follow will interpret these results, suggesting improvements in the model and mention limitations to the research.
This research had a goal to determine whether equalizing goals, home pitch advantage, as well as the interaction effect of the two variables, are factors that give teams a psychological advantage during a penalty shootout in European club competitions. The findings of the study proved sufficient against the existence of psychological advantage assuming the conditions of an equalizing goal and home pitch advantage included in the hypotheses.
The results of the binary logistic regression found no statistical evidence in support of the first hypothesis which states that the team that scored an equalizer during the game will have psychological advantage during the shootout. Despite Lyttleton (2015) finding evidence in favor of the teams that were behind in the score, the analysis indicated that the relationship between equalizing goals would be negative in the case of significant tests, and those teams will be at disadvantage during a shootout.
The second hypothesis states that the home team will have an advantage due to
familiarity, referring to the research papers of Courneya and Carron (1992), and Pollard (2005).
The statistical analysis found no evidence in favor of home teams having an advantage during penalty shootouts. On the contrary, it suggested that home teams are at a disadvantage during a shootout, considering the insignificance of the statistical analysis. These results are similar to the ones from Dohmen (2008), where the researcher suggests that away teams in the German
Bundesliga score in-game penalties slightly more than home teams.
Teams playing at their home stadium that were behind and scored an equalizing goal to have a greater advantage during a shootout was the expectation behind the third hypothesis. The hypothesis was a combination of the first two hypotheses which expected that equalizing goals
and home pitch advantage would have a positive relationship with the outcome of a shootout.
After no support was shown for those hypotheses, it was expected that there would be no statistical evidence for moderation effect that included the variables home pitch advantage and equalizing goals. These findings were contradicting the ones of Lyttleton (2015) and Pollard (2005).
The control variables first mover advantage and highest market value were also included in the research as control variables to rule out alternative explanations. The first mover
advantage proved to not be a significant predictor of outcome. Knowing the outcome of the previous penalty and seeing the reaction of the opposition player might be an advantage if it was missed, resulting in less pressure for the next kick taker, or more pressure if the penalty was converted. Moll et al. (2010) found that players that engaged in certain celebratory behaviors were more likely to be in the team that ultimately won the shootout. Statistical evidence was observed in favor of the teams that had a higher market value. This is a logical outcome since players that are worth more are also considered to be of a higher quality, because their market value is based on the player’s performance and achievements. However, market value cannot be considered as a psychological factor rather than a quantitative one.
Limitations and Alternative Explanations
The dataset only included national and international club competitions in Europe, excluding national team competitions from 2008 and 2021. Some of these national cups have lower
competition level than national team competitions which also happen every four years instead of yearly. The World Cup, European Championship, and Copa America are also competitions that are considered to be most prestigious and are played under most pressure. Jordet et al. (2007) found evidence that performance in penalty shootouts is significantly worse in such tournaments,
as well as that when the perceived pressure is higher the performance, and therefore the chances to win, drop. This research used purely quantitative data which is not always the best indicator for a sport where more subjective factors like fatigue, physicality, skill, experience, crowd noise and luck play a role. Age, player position and valence shots (Jordet & Hartman, 2008) are variables that were not included in the research, because they can only be applied to individual shot conversion and not the overall outcome of shoutouts. If the research included shot
conversion as an independent variable, the results of the tests could have been different, and the proposed independent variables might be significant predictors for individual shot conversion in penalty shootouts. This research did not control for these factors. If they were included in the analyses, we might observe different results, assuming that they play a role in individual
penalties and shootouts. The perceived pressure of tournaments, fatigue and experience could be quantified and included in future research to have more of the variance of the outcome of
shootouts to be explained. Games played on a neutral venue were excluded when testing the moderating effect of home pitch advantage on equalizing goals. This made the sample size smaller, and thus the results less reliable.
The studies by Courneya and Carron (1992) and Pollard (2005) focused on a broader aspect of psychological advantage and pressure by researching games instead of shootouts. It is possible the equalizing goal leads to psychological advantage or a strong shift in momentum (Iso-Ahola & Mobily, 1980) during regular time of games. A great example for a team
performing well while being behind in the score is Manchester United. Referring to an article by www.goal.com, The Red Devils are the team that has collected more points after trailing in a game than any other team in the English Premier League, collecting 385 in such situations.
Another plausible explanation is the difference in quality of goalkeepers and their pre- penalty interactions with opposing players. Those are factors this study was not able to control, assuming that their effect only influences the kick taker, whereas it could also influence the goalkeeper as well. A study by Memmert et al. (2013) found that the interaction between
goalkeepers and shooters is a significant determinant of kick outcome. Examples for such are the goalkeepers placing the ball directly in the hands of the shooters or “trash talking” them to put them out of focus. Some goalkeepers are considered “penalty specialists”. During the 2014 World Cup in a game versus Costa Rica, the coach of the national team of the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal, made a crucial substitution after added time, which led to a victory for the Dutch side.
He replaced starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul who is considered to be very good at saving penalties. Another often occurrence is goalkeepers receiving cheat sheets with the preferred direction of penalty takers, or advice by fellow teammates, who happen to know, or have played with the penalty kick taker to come. Chiappori et al. (2002) also found that goalkeepers choosing the correct side to dive also has a big impact on taken penalties.
Analysis of the opposition before a game where a penalty shootout might occur could also be used to determine the outcome of a shootout. In the Amazon Prime series Tottenham: All or Nothing, behind the scenes footage of analysis from Jose Mourinho is shown to the viewers.
The Portuguese manager was chosen by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics as best football coach of the 21st century, by calculating the total “Coach of the Year”
votes for the past 20 years. Mourinho is known for his extensive analysis of oppositions and footage shows how he has dedicated time before a game with his goalkeepers to teach them behavior patterns and preferred shot direction of the opposition players that could take a penalty in an eventual shootout.
Practical Implications and Advice for Future Research
It is important to highlight that football, like sports in general, is not only statistics. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the starting striker for the French national team, Olivier Giroud, did not have a single shot on target throughout the entirety of the tournament and yet his country still became World Champions. The findings of this research disrupt common stereotypes, like home advantage of teams, and can be used as proof for a recent UEFA decision. On June 24, 2021 they announced that the away-goal rule, which states that away goals weigh more in two-legged fixtures, will not exist in European club tournaments starting from the 2021-2022 season.
Future research can redefine home pitch advantage and how it is different compared to last century. The away goal rule, which values away goals more in two-legged fixtures, was implemented in 1965 after a game between Liverpool Football Club and 1. FC Cologne had to be decided with a coin toss, after two games that ended in a draw. It could be hypothesized that home team advantage in the 20th century was more significant than it is nowadays, because travelling was not as easy as it is today, and away teams were more fatigued having to travel hours with a bus, rather than a plane. It is possible that home pitch advantage is not only related to familiarity with the stadium and crowd, rather than other factors, like travelling, which this study did not consider.
The limitations regarding sample size, national tournaments and quality of goalkeepers, as well as having both shot conversion and outcome of shootouts as dependent variables, could be included in future research on the topic. For shot conversion, further research on the subject can include in-game penalties to the dataset.
Games played on a neutral venue have a considered home team for the purpose of football statistics. Future researchers might also consider including home team advantage in such cases as well. Neutral games in European tournaments are mostly finals, but in international tournaments, all of the games, apart from the host nation ones, can be considered neutral. The home team in neutral games is normally the one that has qualified first for the respective round of the
tournament. This suggests that the home team in such situations could have more time to recover and prepare for the upcoming game. Future researchers might include those factors to determine whether teams that had more time to prepare for a game have an advantage.
Future research could include national tournaments from the CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, AFC football federations as well as the prestigious international tournaments to make the results more applicable to football in general, not only European football.
The background and culture of footballing nations might also be an interesting inclusion in further research on the topic. Football players from countries like Brazil, known for their skillful and solo plays, could possibly perceive less pressure than players from Germany, known for their discipline and teamwork-oriented style of play. Cultural background might also affect the player’s development during their years of playing youth football. It might be interesting to explore players coming from famous football academies, such as the ones of Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona’s “La Masia”, and how their performance compares to the players playing for smaller teams in their youth.
Football coaches can use the findings of this study as an example of what to work on with their players. Dedicated sport psychology specialists might prove more useful to performance under pressure of professional football players than 100 extra shots after training. Studies similar to the one of Slutter et al. (2021) including real athletes might be applied to have a better
understanding of their performance. Such a controlled study in virtual reality settings simulating various match conditions, using the same player, could also provide interesting insights on the topic. Having in mind that the skill level of the player does not change, the shifting conditions around the test subject could be the main factors of success or choking under pressure. Football managers can use the findings for tactical decision making and to better identify in what
situations their motivational speeches are needed the most to boost their team’s chances of winning.
The main goal of this research was to determine whether an equalizing goal can be used as a predictor for the outcome of penalty shootouts in European club competitions, and whether home pitch advantage, as a moderator, strengthens the relationship between the two variables.
The results of this study suggested that the more expensive team in a penalty shootout is more likely to win and found no support in favor of the teams taking the first penalty kick.
Contrary to the findings of previous academic papers, no evidence was found in favor of the team that scored an equalizing goal during the regular time of a match. Home pitch advantage was also found to not be a significant predictor for the outcome of a penalty shootout, nor did it positively moderate the relationship between an equalizer and overall outcome. While the smaller sample size of games played in European club competitions limits the reliability and generalizability of the results of this study, the findings also question whether the conclusions of previous studies are applicable to modern football. The results of this paper were not in line with previous research, yet they show support for the recent decision by UEFA to abolish the away goal rule in European club competitions, implemented in 1965. This study provided useful recommendations for future exploration. Variables not controlled for in this study like fatigue,
quality of goalkeepers, experience and cultural backgrounds are suggested to be included in further exploration on the topic and help determine the most important factors when it comes to performing and choking under pressure. They could provide insightful information to football coaches and specialists, when it comes to their training methods, tactical decision making and preparation for games.
Overall, football is more than just pure statistics. However, they can be used to improve the sport and gain a better understanding of it. Despite the limited results of this study regarding equalizing goals, home pitch advantage and their effect on outcome of penalty shootouts, it provided useful insights for the psychological factors that explain choking under pressure and predict the outcome of games and penalty shootouts.
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