Science and lottery

In the last 40 years the definitions with shots from the penalty spot have become commonplace. In the Eurocup and the America’s Cup, which end this weekend, the passage to the next round of several teams has been determined with this method, which many refer to as “the penalty lottery”, as they consider that luck it is decisive in this type of definitions. Others strongly disagree and point out that luck plays no role. From my point of view it is a combination of fortune and (to call it somehow) science.

I am a faithful defender of the famous response that the Argentine referee Carlos Nai Foino gave to Delem, a forward for River Plate, whom Antonio Roma, goalkeeper for Boca Juniors, had just stopped a penalty in a game that decided which of the two teams would be the champion of 1962. River players complained to the referee that Rome had gone ahead, which evidently happened, to which the judge replied: “Penalty well kicked is a goal.”

Based on this premise of the Argentine judge, my point of view is that the lottery concept is valid with badly collected penalties, many of which end up inside.

Now, what is a well-kicked penalty? My immediate response is always the same: Andreas Brehme’s goal against Argentina in the final of the World Cup in Italy 90. The German defender had in front of none other than Sergio Goicochea, the goalkeeper who in the tournament had saved four shots from the penalty spot in the matches that Argentina played against Yugoslavia and Italy. Brehme chose the goalkeeper’s right post, hit it hard and placed the ball very close to the post. Goicochea flew there but there was nothing to do. Those well-kicked penalties always end inside. Either they go flush or they enter very close to the crossbar. In the two tournaments that have been played this month we have seen several examples of flawless cashes and talking about luck in those cases is completely nonsense.

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But how many poorly collected penalties don’t end in because the goalkeeper guesses wrong? Or because the ball hits the stick and bounces off the goalkeeper’s back? Or because they are badly placed but the power of the shot doubles the goalkeeper’s hands? Part of the lottery also consists of assuming that the goalkeeper is going to jump to one of the two sides and that is why we have seen hundreds of penalty goals that come with great power through the center of the goal.

But sometimes the archer does not launch as fast and manages to stop the shot against hand or with his feet. We also see many well-placed penalty goals that go with little power and that come in because the goalkeeper played it at the other post. But sometimes the archer guesses (or threatens to throw himself to the side and at the last moment he throws himself to the side towards which the soft shot is going) and manages to stop him. Not to mention the penalties “a la Panenka”, in which the striker threatens to kick hard, the goalkeeper chooses some side and the striker punches the ball, which enters slowly throughout the center of the goal. Sometimes the archer stands still and makes a fool of the executor. In my opinion, all of the above are badly kicked penalties (even if they look very pretty or elegant) in which a combination of factors that we can call “the goddess fortune” determine whether or not they end up at the bottom of the net.

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The emotional and mental part also play a very important role in these definitions, in which, fortunately for the archers, it has been seen to fail excellent collectors of the stature of Zico, Socrates, Baggio, Maradona, Messi and recently Mbappé.

Lucky? Technique? Job? Mentality? In my opinion it is a combination of all of the above. But, yes, nobody will ever get me out of my head that a well-kicked penalty will always be a goal.

Myrtle Frost

"Reader. Evil problem solver. Typical analyst. Unapologetic internet ninja."

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