Dec 24, 2022Liked by Benn Stancil

Great analysis, Benn! Since this is purely statistical, I think it misses three big themes: the pressure in big tournaments such as the Euros and the World Cup, the historical performance of national teams, and the culture of football.

1) The pressure during the WC is so high that even great players can miss penalty kicks, such as Jorginho in the final at Euros 2020 (held in 2021) or Kane against France in the quarter-final. I wonder if there's a distribution that can include "pressure" and adjust the penalty taker's conversion rate. In that case, I doubt that even PK specialists will have a 95% conversion rate especially in the knockout stage, and it likely will have a steep fall given the stage of the knockout game (R16, QF, SF, F).

2) There are some teams that have historically been bad at taking penalties, such as England and Spain, despite having an array of talented players and practiced penalties before big games (e.g. Spain before the QF with Morocco, England before the F with Italy in Euros 2020). Despite their efforts to improve this obvious deficiency with their prodigious talents, these teams have failed time and again. In other words, I would expect a Spanish or English PK specialist may have a different distribution than a French PK specialist, so PK specialists may make a bigger difference for some teams than others.

3) Lastly, given the culture of football, it may be more acceptable to have one goalkeeper out of the three be a specialist at saving penalties than having 1-2 PK specialists. That may arguably make a bigger difference, such as Bono did for Morocco against Spain, or Martinez for Argentina against France.

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Interesting post. A couple of thoughts on the core of your post:

– Teams have in the past made those specific substitutions in the 118th/119th minute to bring on better penalty takers (works sometimes but many times to not great outcomes such as England in the Euros final), but mental fortitude plays a big role, so realistically, I don't think 95% rates may be achievable. The very best penalty takers (who albeit also have other skills) are at ~90% (Jorginho, Fernandes, etc), and I don't think specialists per se would surpass that.

– 2 seems a bit high for the number of substitutions teams may be able to hold back for the penalty specialists. For example, as you said, of the 17 substitutions, only 7 took a penalty. Others were brought on to influence the last 15 minutes in extra time. In most extra time periods, team were a goal down in the last 15 and needed to score (Croatia vs Brazil, France vs Argentina) or defending for their lives (Morocco vs Spain, Netherlands vs Argentina). Not being able to make substitutions to help that cause may have led to them losing the game prior to penalties.

– As an aside, in regular play, a Penalty in general is supposed to be an extreme punishment for a foul in the box to force defenders to be more careful. Sure, you could require the player who was fouled to take it which would say reduce conversions from ~80% to 60-70%, but the point really is to make it extreme so defenders don't commit fouls. The typical game sees about 0.25 penalties per game, although this has gone up with the introduction of VAR, but on net the impact of the rule change you mention would only be about 0.05xG, which is not huge relative to the typical 2.25-2.5xG of a game.

– Lastly, this analysis is for the World Club and perhaps there is a role for specialists to influence the outcome more in such tournaments, but these players likely would not find themselves in a job at club level. In a club team's season, maybe 2-3 of there ~70 games a club plays go to shootouts (because over half their games are in a league format), so it's hard to see a room in the squad for someone who can literally only take penalties in a shootout. Given that, it's unlikely that very many players would want to be of this ilk, since they're likely only employed at the national level.

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Dec 26, 2022Liked by Benn Stancil

Great article Benn!

What if I told you that we have already seen a specialist in penalty shootouts at a World Cup? But it wasn't a penalty taker, but a goalkeeper! In 2014, the Netherlands subbed a goalkeeper (Tim Krul) at the very end of overtime. It worked out since he saved two penalties. Here is a vid about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP2IkwrLbu4

Even though it was a success, it was very controversial at the time because soccer only allowed had 3 subs for the whole 120 min, and some argued that by saving a sub for the GK the coach actually hindered his team chances to win in regulation.

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Such great analysis! You are the rain man of soccer/football statistics. 🔥🔥🔥🔥⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽

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Dec 23, 2022Liked by Benn Stancil

Benn hi! Could you elaborate further on ```If both teams have a lineup without a specialist, the final outcome is a coin flip, with each team winning half the time``` ?

You mean on average, assuming 50% change of every kicker + goalkeeper of making / saving the shot?

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Dec 23, 2022·edited Dec 23, 2022Liked by Benn Stancil

Soccer is the only sport I know where the referee jersey (kit) colors in a given game are determined by the jersey colors of the teams playing. There are typically five options: black, red, yellow, green and blue.

No other league or sport is like this as far as I can tell, where the teams on the field and their jersey choices affect how the referees will dress on a given day.

I think it says something about why there is so much flopping.

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