Here are some Great Tips for Coaches and players who facing a PK shoot-out – especially in view of Portugal’s recent defeat vs Spain in the Euro 2012 championship semi-final, England’s defeat vs Italy, and Bayern Munich’s loss to Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League 2012.
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PK shoot-outs are nerve-racking experiences. But keep in mind that both teams had a chance to put the game away during regulation time – and failed to do that. If your team was not the better team during regulation and extra time – then look on bright side, your team really has nothing to lose by taking PKs. This can take alot of pressure off the “weaker” team. If your team was the better team during the game, however, then the message you should be telling your players is something like this: “This is the time that we get to prove that we are indeed the better team, and we will win this because we worked hard, we deserve it, and we practiced shooting PKs many times and we will win this by taking a series of the best PKs that we can take.” This has to do with getting your players on stable mental footing for the show-down.
Here are some practical steps that coaches and captains should keep in mind:
If you win the coin toss for which end of the field – choose the side with the least divots, dryest, where the field is most even etc. You don’t want to take penalties on an un-even, soggy, or chewed up part of the pitch.
If you win the coin toss for which team shoots first – you should choose to shoot first – studies show that 60% of teams that shoot first end up winning the PK shoot-out
Choosing your first 5 shooters – make sure your best shooters shoot first, and in that order (not like Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo who was last of the 5 to shoot and didn’t end up shooting a single penalty). Imagine, one of Europe’s best footballers didn’t even get to take a PK for his country in the end because the coach placed him as Portugal’s 5th shooter! That’s a huge mistake on the part of the Portugal’s coach Paolo Bento.
Should you ask your players if they want to volunteer to shoot, or should the coach make the selections? I don’t believe a coach should let the players decide who shoots based on their feelings at that given moment. This is because shooting ability and confidence levels are 2 very different things.
My advice is that the coach should make the selections and should have already created a list of his top 5-7 shooters, based on PK practice drills as well as previous game experience with his players. There is no better data to base your decision than actual game experience (track record). But since not everyone gets to take PKs in matches or even in PK shootouts, coaches should run PK shootout simulations with his players periodically – say at least once per month. Also, a good idea is to have your captain shoot first – because that player is usually one of your most skilled players and has the most experience. Captains are also team leaders, and take it upon themselves to lead their squad during challenging times like PK shoot-outs.
As a coach I typically want my strongest (i.e. hardest) shooters to take PKs – not necessarily the most accurate shooters. I prefer pace and accuracy to just accuracy alone. The ultimate traits I look for in PK shooters are: confidence (low anxiety), the ability to mentally focus, power, and placement (in that order).
The coach should never change the order of his shooters mid-stream (as Portugal did in the case of Alves and Nani) and make sure that his players clearly understand the shooting order – by lining them up in order at the center circle. My guess is that Alves may have missed his PK vs Spain because he was distracted by the change in the shooting order, when Nani stepped in before him after having already walked to PK spot from the center circle. Either he was not clear on who should shoot next for Portugal or the coach botched the shooting order and changed his mind at the last minute. Either way, this is a significant coaching error because your players should be clear about the shooting order from the start of the PK shoot-out.
Some Great Tips for PK Shooting/Execution (for players elected to shoot penalties)
Encourage your players to take at least 4-5 steps behind the ball. Short run-ups typically mean soft shots, which are much easier for GKs to save.
Discourage your players from taking stutter steps, as Schweinsteiger did against Chelsea when he missed.
I also personally don’t care for cheeky PKs, like chipping the ball softly toward the center of the goal (making the GK look like a fool). I encourage my players to go with a controlled (accurate) power shot. Up the middle is fine, if you have noticed by the 3rd shot or so that the GK is guessing directions (as opposed to waiting to react to the shooter). Since most great PK killing GKs react to the shooter, against these types I would strongly discourage shooting up the middle.
While some shooters like shooting high, the priority should be first corner placement, then height, not the other way around. I tend to favor PK shooters who can shoot the ball hard and low.
Finally, when your players take a PK, tell them to:
- be confident as you walk up to the penalty spot. Know that you worked hard to get to this point, and that you’ve practiced shooting these things many, many times. It’s simply another opportunity to execute the plan to the best of your ability. No one can ask for more than that.
- set the ball themselves (out of divots, preferably on flat or a tuft of grass)
- take at least 4-5 steps of a run-up (for power and momentum), as we said earlier
- pick your corner and never change this decision mid-kick
- visualize repeatedly yourself executing your PK flawlessly in the few minutes prior to and just before taking your shot , striking an exact part of the ball, following through, picturing the ball entering the net, and then celebrating!
- try to clear out as much external noise and distraction as possible – clear your mind and focus only on the job at hand – this means actually looking at the ball (focusing on the exact part of the ball that should be struck). This was Paul Breitner’s secret when he took the PK against Holland in 1974, to tie the game 1-1 in the first half. He once said that after deciding on where he wants to place the ball, he focuses on the part of the ball that he needs to strike and that he simply follows through. Concentration is paramount.
I hope that you enjoyed this lesson and hope to bring you more in the future. If you have any special requests on other topics or would like some more tips, please let me know. Please tell your football friends about the ProSoccerTactics.com web site , visit the ProSoccerTactics.com YouTube channel, and please Like and/or share this article on Facebook.
Thank you for your interest,
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