How to Take a Penalty

how to take a penalty
As a company, we have a keen interest in this subject and came across this text online about penalty taking at the professional level of the game. We thought the above information on the subject would be of interest to the football clubs we supply at all levels of the game. The text below with the asterisk* is taken from the professor’s comments on the document above and the blue italic comments are our response. *Footage captured by the Sky Sports high definition cameras, now installed at the back of football nets, have enabled Director of Sport & Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor Tim Cable, to study UEFA Champions League and Premier League penalties, to pinpoint the optimum technique for taking winning spot-kicks. The ball needs to cross the goal line at exactly 0.5m below crossbar and 0.5m inside the post.

The perfect penalty in our opinion is when the taker knows what he is doing technically and chooses one of the four key areas to place the ball. The taker needs to know why he has chosen the area, has confidence that he has the technical ability to hit that area and that he also does not transmit that choice to the goalkeeper. Each type of penalty needs a different technical ability and the number one choice of penalty taker at your club should be able to do all four. There is a fifth area but technically this area is more liable to see the ball go over the crossbar and therefore is not recommended. It is unlikely that more than two choices will be needed in a single game

* The ball needs to be kicked at a speed greater than 65mph. Ideally the harder you can hit the chosen area the better but not at the cost of accuracy * This requires a run-up of 5/6 steps.  five or six steps is ideal however the run-up should ensure the correct angle of approach is arrived at for each type of penalty before the ball is stuck and they differ * The striker needs to commence his run up from the edge of 18-yard line with an angle of approach of 20-30 degrees to the ball. The angle of approach is a very important part of the perfect penalty – the starting positions should always be the same for all four types of a strike as the final kicking position can change during the run-up. *A penalty strike following these guidelines – requiring extreme accuracy and speed – is, according to Professor Cable, a ‘high-risk strategy’ but ‘virtually unstoppable’ by a goalkeeper. With dedicated practice, it would ensure a 100% scoring rate.

The correct practice of the techniques will create the perfect penalty – not sure a 100% rate is ever possible. Once a penalty is missed the player should ask himself why he missed and what was wrong, the choice of target, the strike, the position of the non-kicking foot or the disguise.

* Professor Cable said: “Technological advancement is bringing new levels of insight into the nuances of the sport. Penalty taking is like everything else in life when you know what you are doing and how to do everything becomes easier * “Because high-definition footage is so much more detailed and clearer than standard transmissions, every move of a player taking a penalty can be scrutinized. Many factors make up a ‘perfect penalty’ but we believe we’ve finally nailed the key elements.”

In our opinion quite, a lot is not taken into account so this is more of an analysis and observation of various successful penalties at a professional level and may not be by someone who actually has taken numerous penalties.

*Sky Sports football expert, former Southampton midfielder and legendary penalty-taker Matt Le Tissier, who himself scored 47 out of 48 penalties, explains: “Throughout my career, my team-mates, my coaches and I were always debating the best way to take a penalty. “I’d always done well with mine but had high-definition footage been around to study, perhaps I would have scored that elusive 48th penalty!” Professor Cable offers further insight into what makes a good penalty. For an 80% success rate, strikers should bear in mind the following: * The ball needs to cross the goal-line approximately 0.7m inside either goal post and at ground, or just above ground level.

The perfect penalty in our opinion should see the football hit the side net 50mm behind the upright at ground level – and closer to the post  0.4m rather than 0.7m.

* This is more of a “placement” type penalty rather than powerful and needs to reach a speed of between 45-55mph.

Speed is important with accuracy however if the goalkeeper is driving the wrong way which is an important part of the perfect penalty – the speed of the strike is not quite as important

* The penalty taker routinely approaches this with five steps, although the angle of approach to the ball may be greater, reaching up to 45¢ª.

The approach is a very important part of penalty taking and needs to be identical each time if in any way the goalkeeper is to be deceived. Elaborate run-ups are difficult to replicate and are not recommended. 

* “Body Deception” – this requires a player to approach the ball as if to hit into one corner but direct it into the other and to place his support (non-kicking foot) slightly further forward (by a couple of inches) than when placing football into the left-hand corner. A perfect example of this was Carlos Tevez’s penalty during this season’s Wigan v Manchester City game – it is almost impossible to tell where the penalty is going until ball contact.

This was written by Professor Tim Cable some time ago when Wigan was in the Premier League. – The non-kicking foot is extremely important and is the reason why players shoot wide. It also is the reason for the most common miss seen every week at all levels. It is nothing to do with deception as it is impossible to see by the goalkeeper at the time of the strike. It is body shape, the body position, the body angle and the palms of the hands that send the keepers the wrong way. Eyes in the opposite corner do not send keepers diving the wrong way. With regard to the non-kicking foot the further back, it is placed on an instep strike the wider the ball will go and the opposite applies to a side-footed strike.

* To turn this penalty into an unstoppable one, optimum deception is required.

This is very important –the perfect penalty taker should be able to send the goalkeeper whichever way he wants if he knows what he is doing – why are the palms of the hands so important in penalty taking? The reason is that you never see anyone making a side-footed pass with the palms of the hands facing upwards and in the same way, you do not see a long Crossfield pass made with the palms of the hands facing downwards. This observation needs to be transferred into the skill of penalty taking.

*Sky broadcasts more football than ever in high definition and has introduced HD cameras into the back of nets to give the complete on-the-ground viewing experience. Further findings: *The worst penalty. * Hit, either at speed or slower crossing the line greater than 0.8m inside either post (i.e. middle of goal). This dramatically increases risk by goalkeeper – potentially even if dived wrong way.

A basic mistake that is common to all players and it is a technical mistake with the non-kicking foot.

* Any penalty hit straight is more likely to fail and suggests lack of practice and confidence in the ability of the player.

We disagree with this as if you understand penalties and how this penalty should be taken to strike away from the dive it is a very good high-pressure penalty. Never try to just chip it down the middle unless your disguise skills are really well honed. 
If executed properly the goalkeeper will dive to his right. (right footed taker) This is especially a good penalty in shootouts if properly executed and hit with the outside of the foot to curl the ball away from the dive. 
Anyone needs to have taken lots of penalties to understand them fully and not many players do that as they normally miss after about six/eight and others step forward to take over the role. Having discussed penalties with several people in the professional game we were very surprised at the lack of technical knowledge about taking penalties at the time. Some of the above information from professor Cable may be useful but it is the understanding of why and how his observations work that is important. When speaking to John Lukich of Leeds Utd & Arsenal many years ago about penalties in the professional game he commented: ” they pay them that much they expect them to know what they are doing”. 
One of the key differences at a professional level is the pressure of taking a kick in front of thousands of people. That pressure is added to if you do not understand the technicalities of striking the ball correctly when the ball is stationary. When you know what you are doing the added pressure should not influence the skill. We have seen this at many international penalty shoot-outs. Amateur & professional penalty misses have the same common basic mistakes.
Pressure is added when the penalty is to win, pull a team back into the game with little or no time left or when the referee decides the penalty needs to be retaken. This is when you need all the skills and the variance of the target area and ball striking skills.
In today’s game with video technology of every penalty the skills are even more important – yet in the past it was a simple notebook – it is the serious penalty taker who also needs to make the notes as well as the goalkeeper.
Everyone expects a penalty to be scored and that will never change. The goal is a one hundred and ninety-two-foot square target and that is why they should be converted every time.   Hope this has stimulated some thought in players especially those shooting into our own ITSA GOAL posts.

Professor Tim Cables observations


for more information to improve penalty conversion at your club contact



The penalty kick target areas below show the key areas of the goal where the perfect penalty kick should be and the fifth shows the risky area not recommended. Strike the ball consistently into those areas with maximum disguise and the result should be a goal as the diagrams show. With the goalkeeper diving in the wrong direction and a strike into any one of these areas and you have the perfect penalty. The penalty kick manual and the coaching sessions we offer show technically how this can be consistently achieved.






penalty taking



penalty kick



taking a football penalty



penalty kicks



help taking penalties