All you need to know about penalty shootouts

Penalty shootouts are perhaps the most dramatic way to end a match, especially in a tournament as massive and meaningful as the World Cup. But newer fans to the game may not have seen them before, and they can take a bit to figure out and understand, so we’re here to help you figure out just what is going on.

penalty shoot outs

penalty shoot outs

penalty shoot-out (officially kicks from the penalty mark) is a method of determining which team is awarded victory in an a football match that cannot end in a draw, when the score is tied after the regulation playing time as well as extra time (if used) have expired. In a penalty shoot-out, each team takes turns shooting at goal from the penalty mark, with the goal only defended by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. Each team has five shots which must be taken by different kickers; the team that makes more successful kicks is declared the victor. Shoot-outs finish as soon as one team has an insurmountable lead. If scores are level after five pairs of shots, the shootout progresses into additional “sudden-death” rounds. Balls successfully kicked into the goal during a shoot-out do not count as goals for the individual kickers or the team, and are tallied separately from the goals scored during normal play (including extra time, if any). Although the procedure for each individual kick in the shoot-out resembles that of a penalty kick there are some differences. Most notably, neither the kicker nor any player other than the goalkeeper may play the ball again once it has been kicked.

Penalty Shoot Outs

Penalty shootouts are perhaps the most dramatic way to end a match, especially in a tournament as massive and meaningful as the World Cup. But newer fans to the game may not have seen them before, and they can take a bit to figure out and understand, so we’re here to help you figure that out

What exactly is a penalty?

In regular play, a foul by the defense in the penalty box creates a penalty. The ball is placed on the “penalty spot” — the white dot in the middle of the box of either of the two opposing sides. Every player but the goalkeeper and one player from the opposing team — generally their best finisher — leaves the box, and it’s a one-on-one situation, with the attacker holding an obvious advantage because the keeper doesn’t know where he’s going to shoot the ball until he takes his shot.

Penalty Kick

So how does the penalty shootout work and how does it determine the winner?

It’s pretty straightforward. Both teams select five players to send to the penalty spot and take their shots in rotating order between them, with the team with the most penalties scored after the five winning. If after five penalties it’s still tied, penalties continue one back-and-forth round at a time — the first team to have an advantage after a round between both teams wins.

The higher the stakes, the more dramatic extra time and penalty shootouts tend to be — and there are no higher stakes in this sport than the World Cup.

How do you even get to the penalty shootout?

If after the 90 minutes of regulation time the score is tied, the match continues with two 15-minute periods of extra time to try and determine a winner. There is one extra substitution granted to each team during extra time, but there’s also only a few short minutes between the two 15-minute periods to rest and adjust.

Those 30 extra minutes tend to either be very frantically played or very slow and grinding, depending on the attitudes of the teams involved and their remaining energy. It’s not unusual for extra time to finish with the score still even, thus sending both teams to the penalty shootout. In other words, by the time you get to the shootout, both teams are exhausted and that fatigue only adds to the potential drama or heartbreak of the shootout.

What is the ABBA shootout format?

FIFA has been trialing a new format for penalty kick shootouts in smaller competitions, but decided against instituting it at the 2018 World Cup. Because the team that goes first in the classic format wins nearly 60 percent of shootouts, they’re trying out a new format where teams take two penalties in a row, structured like a tennis tiebreaker. It’s been used at UEFA youth tournaments, and the Football League is using it in its competitions in England.

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