how to save a penalty

How to save a penalty

Penalty shootouts can be a big worry for goalkeepers. This is the moment which they can win an entire game for their team! Remember that 12 yards is a long way once the taker gets up there too.

In order to save a goal from a penalty kick, there are many techniques which keepers have been known to use – but which ones work? This is our ultimate guide on how to save a penalty.

How to save a penalty quick links

Do your research

If you know you have a big game coming up, do some background research on your opponents. For goalkeepers, it’s much easier to study your opposing attackers. Almost all football attackers have techniques which they feel more or less confident with.

This could be a great advantage to you because when it comes down to it, they will probably stick to what they know and are most comfortable with. Watch back on some of their previous games and try to spot any repetitive shooting techniques. Once you have this information, get a teammate to shoot some similar shots and let you practice your saving technique.

Get into their head

It’s all about psychology. Before a penalty starts it’s great to get into the shooters head! This competitive behaviour is great for crowds as it can add to the entertainment plus you will appear more confident.

A great psychological tip, although it may seem very obvious, is telling the player that you know where they are going to shoot. The chosen player has probably rehearsed his penalty shot countless times, and by doing this it makes him worry that you may actually know.

Locking eyes with the player shows your focus and readiness before the shot has been taken – again knocking his confidence. Repeat telling him where he is going to shoot, building up his nerves, this is a great distraction.

Place the football at their feet, showing you have control, and walk back to your goal – don’t stop looking at them. This constant eye contact can make them lose their balance and forget their training.

Keep your calm

The most forgotten tip is keeping your calm. Staying calm and focused during any sport is vital for a win. Being stressed can only mean you’re more distracted, which in return, can blow your chances.

Remaining cool, calm and collected means you have your head in the game. Avoid any tensions which the players or crowd may be expressing and just stick to the game plan – this is the best way to maximise your chances of success.

Cover as much ground as possible

This is one of the most important techniques for a goalkeeper. Covering as much ground as possible means that the shooter has less space to aim, resulting in an easier save for you. Making yourself appear big is not only making it more challenging to score, but it also intimidates the player.

Stand your ground and only at the last second make a dive. Countless times have we seen keepers reacting too soon and diving before the ball is in flight. This not only sabotages your chances of a save, but it also shows the attacker that you’re frightened. By taking time processing your dive you may even get lucky and defend the ball off from where you were standing.

Once you’ve dived you want to make sure you stretch your arms out and keep your legs in the equation. The more ground you cover in your dive the higher chance you have of getting to the ball, especially if you’ve dived too early.

Keep a strong hand

Once the kick has been taken and you’ve spread your body out as much as possible it is important to keep a strong hand. There is nothing worse than getting to the ball and flapping it into your own net.

Keep your wrists strong and push the ball as far away from the goal as possible. You don’t want your hard work to go to waste so if you manage to save the original shot don’t give the penalty taker another chance by pushing it straight back to them.

Common techniques

In football, we often see many techniques used over and over. Learn them – this could familiarise you with a game you haven’t even played yet! The most common technique is a stutter run. Simply, a stutter run is used to distract the keeper into thinking he is about to shoot, thus making him dive.

Ultimately if you stay calm, a stutter run can work in your favour. When a shooter does a stutter run, they lose power as well as speed. Running towards the ball as a technique to score can result in a shooter being too close to the ball to actually take a good shot! Don’t be fooled by these false starts, stay focused and wait until the very last second to dive.

Watch the Plant Foot

In football, your plant foot steers where your body is going to drive the ball. It is the opposite of your shooting foot so if you are left footed, your plant foot will be your right -and vice versa. While most of your body is in motion as you kick a ball, your plant foot is fixed to the ground providing the rest of your body’s direction.

When its penalty time, focusing on the shooters plant foot can give you a great advantage. Footballers tend to subconsciously point their foot to where they are going to shoot so it may be wise to prepare for a dive in that area of the goal.

All about hips!

Similar to the plant foot, watching the hips can give a lot away about where they will be aiming their shot. As the player is about to strike the ball, the hips will often show you which way the ball is going to go just before it is struck – again if you can read this and the planted foot as it happens you will get a great indicator as to which way to dive!

Eye contact

Watch their eyes! They can be the biggest giveaway when it comes down to a penalty shootout. A shooter is constantly looking for the best place to shoot in order to secure a goal, so by staying focused on where they are assessing, it may help you tremendously. Little hints like this can give away which way the penalty will be taken.

Your stance

Your stance is super important for ensuring you have the highest chance of saving a goal. The most used stance is having your arms wide and your knees bent.

The reasoning behind this is simply because it makes you cover a wider area of the goal. Think of your stance as being a wall. You are trying to block the ball from entering, so, you would choose to be as wide as possible.

Stepping away

Although this may be a little cheeky, a little step away from the line at the last minute will rarely order a retake. Take the Liverpool vs Milan Champions League penalty shootout for proof! Similarly, to your stance, this can help you cover a larger area of the goal, securing more of a chance!

Great penalty saves

Tim Howard – Colorado Rapids (v Real Salt Lake)

A true goalkeeping legend, Tim Howard has been around for years and shown off his prowess for huge clubs, including Manchester United and Everton. Now back in the US where it all began, here he is showing you the perfect example of how to save a penalty by reaching for the top corners.

Victor Leandro Bagy – Atlético Mineiro (v Club Tijuana)

What a time to step up. Copa Libertadores Quarter Finals 2013, the South American equivalent of the Champions League. Victor Leandro Bagy pulled of this sensational save with his trailing foot which shows exactly why you should keep your eye on the ball at all times and get anything you can on the ball. Atlético Mineiro went on to win the title that year thanks to further heroics from the keep in the final.

Petr Cech – Chelsea FC (v Bayern Munich)

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Deep into stoppage time in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, Bayern Munich gets a penalty. It seems to have thrown away all the hard work of Chelsea’s depleted team. Despite Arjen Robben hitting the ball with ferocious power into the bottom corner, Cech gets all the way down, stops the ball and jumps on the rebound. Simply breathtaking.

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