Ah the penalties, you have to love them. Unless you lose, in which case they’re the worst thing ever.
BBC Sport and Opta have crunched the numbers to see what we could learn about maximizing your chances of scoring.
Choose a side
Your chances of scoring a penalty are much greater if you go right or left – but please avoid putting it in the middle.
Some 74% of penalties placed on the right, and the same percentage of those placed on the left, go in. But penalties in the middle are only scored 57% of the time – a record 36 of 63.
You have a similar chance of having a penalty saved regardless of how you shoot (about 21%), but you’re much, much more likely to miss the target in the middle.
Some 11% of center penalties hit the crossbar and a further 11% go over it. Go left or right and those numbers drop to 3% and 1% respectively.
Going high is usually better too.
So if you take one thing away from this article – we’re looking at you, England players – PICK A SIDE.
Take one of the first penalties
That shouldn’t be too surprising since the best penalty takers usually go first (unless you are Cristiano Ronaldo).
The conversion rates for the first three penalties by each team are 75%, 73% and 73% respectively. Penalty four goes in 64% of the time and fifth is 65%.
Surprisingly, only two World Cup shootouts resulted in sudden death, with a 50% conversion rate on four kicks.
Dividing the different teams’ kickers from one to 10, the most successful takers are second and fifth – 77% each. Number eight has the worst rate among the top 10 – 61%.
It doesn’t matter which team shoots first – the team that shoots first and second wins 15 each.
Be a striker
Midfielders are the most frequently penalized players in World Cup shootouts, which is probably unsurprising as most teams – especially on 4-4-2 matchdays – have more midfielders than of attackers.
But forwards are the most successful kickers, with 63 of 84 goals (75%). Of the 122 midfielders to take one, 84 scored (69%). For defenders, the total drops to 49 out of 73 (67%).
Be German (or Argentinian)
It’s a cliché, but Germany are the best country to take penalties at the World Cups, winning all four penalties – against France (1982), Mexico (1986), England ( 1990) and Argentina (2006).
They scored 17 of their 18 kicks – with Uli Stielike the only one to miss in the first World Cup penalty shoot-out between West Germany and France.
Sure, they are already out. So if you can’t be German, be Argentinian. They also scored a joint record 17 penalties – but that’s on 22. They won four of five, losing only to Germany.
Three teams have a 100% success rate on penalties: Belgium, South Korea and Paraguay (all 5/5).
Don’t be English (or Swiss)
England have missed more penalties in World Cup penalties than anyone else – eight (out of 19).
Gareth Southgate’s side victory over Colombia in 2018 was their first success.
Their three kick losses remain a joint record with Spain and Italy (all V1 L3).
But the worst team to take part in a World Cup penalty shootout is Switzerland, who missed all three kicks against Ukraine in 2006. They are the only team to take part in a penalty shootout. shots on goal and not to have scored any penalties.
be right footed
There’s not a huge difference, but right-footed penalties go 71% of the time, with 68% of those taken left-footed.
Right foot penalties are much more common – 223 versus 56 for the left foot. Unsurprisingly, no one took a header penalty…
Don’t be a late sub (unless you’re a keeper)
Teams sometimes bring in players just for the penalty shootout.
It’s hard to assess who came on purely for penalties, but of the players who came on in the second half of extra time and took a penalty, five out of eight (63%) scored.
Among those to come in the last 10 minutes, it’s two out of three (67%). The last five minutes and we’re down to one in two (50%).
The least successful example is Jamie Carragher, who came on as a substitute for Aaron Lennon in the 118th minute of England’s 2006 World Cup quarter-final against Portugal.
He scored his kick before the whistle so he had to take it back, and Ricardo tipped his second over the bar – one of the keeper’s three saves in that shootout.
“The ref said he never whistled, so I had to wait until he whistled it. I didn’t realize it. I obviously don’t take that many,” said the Liverpool legend told BBC Sport afterwards.
There’s no doubting the most successful substitute for a shootout of all time – goalkeeper Tim Krul for the Netherlands against Costa Rica in the 2014 quarter-finals.
He replaced Jasper Cillessen in the 121st minute and – with plenty of wits – then saved two penalties as the Dutch won.
Will anyone attempt the same trick in Qatar this winter?
Graphics by Andrew Dicks and Lee Martin