New Penalty Rules in 2023, New Challenge for Goalkeepers?

New penalty rules are officially introduced on July 1, which may set a new challenge for goalkeepers. 

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) announced new penalty rules for 2023 in March. It appears to have drawn more critical responses not only from the goalkeepers themselves but also from the former outfield players and fans. 

FIFA had already been waiting to modify the older regulations after what happened in 2022, particularly in two crucial games. The first one was Australia vs Peru in the 2022 World Cup Intercontinental playoffs, whereas the second one was the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar. Two notable shot stoppers, the Socceroos’ Andrew Redmayne and FIFA Best Goalkeeper in 2022, Emiliano Martinez, had seemingly become the main reference for this new penalty rules. 

It will be very interesting to see what has changed in the 2023 version and how would a goalkeeper adapt again to be able to save penalties. The new rule somehow has been considered rather unfair for the figure between the sticks, or has it? 

Goalkeepers Can Face New Challenge as New Penalty Rules 2023 is Imposed

What has changed?

Based on the law changes in IFAB 2023/24 report, Law 14, it states that goalkeepers are forbidden from acting in a way that displays disrespect for the game and the opposition. Among the behaviors that could be viewed as diverting the penalty-taker are:

  • touching the goal net, crossbar or goal post
  • delaying the kick 
  • talking to or shouting at the taker 
  • ‘dancing’ on the goal line 

Moreover, the shot stoppers are also expected to stay on the goal line between the goalposts until the penalty is taken and face the taker. 

This means Emi Martinez’s antics before or after denying the shots, shouting at the takers or distracting them by throwing away the ball would no longer be seen on the pitch. Nor would Jerzy Dudek’s and Bruce Grobellar’s wobbly feet, or Andre Redmayne’s odd dance be acceptable. It seems FIFA prefers a return to basic and classic penalty shootout, where neither side has an additional advantage. 

What can be done to adapt?

The change in the regulation does seem harsh for the shot stoppers. Yet, it does not mean they can no longer save the penalties. Goalkeepers can refer to a more conventional approach. 

Apart from the common memorizing the takers’ penalty from the hidden notes on a water bottle, other tricks are also worth a try. Some of them include putting on an intimidating look and observing the takers’ subtle body language.

The former trick might sound easy but can be quite challenging too when a goalkeeper does not get used to it. When distraction can no longer be done through trash talking or hand movement, the eyes and facial expression can still do the work. 

Having a natural scary face might be helpful too as it can be easier to strip or at least shake the shooters’ confidence. German goalkeepers appear to be a great example in it. Harold Schumacher, Oliver Kahn, and Jens Lehmann were all renowned for having menacing faces. The fact that they were all well-known figures in penalty saves may not have been a coincidence.

Schumacher did save four in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup, which is the record of its own in the competition. Meanwhile, Oliver Kahn blocked three times in the shootout while beating Valencia in the 2001 UEFA Champions League final. Lehmann denied once in the 1997 UEFA Cup final against Inter Milan and saved twice at the quarter final in 2006 World Cup versus Argentina. 

While intimidating the takers is all about mind games, reading the body language is something that shot stoppers can study. Any small change in the gaze, the body lean, or even the position of the feet may provide a faint hint as to the shot direction. Yet, they only have a few seconds to do so before making a decision. The Golden Ball and Golden Glove winner in the 2002 World Cup, Oliver Kahn, agreed that body language could tell a lot about the penalty direction. 

Most goalkeepers today barely use trash talk or antique moves to save penalties. The likes of Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic, Danielj Subasic, England’s Jordan Pickford, Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma or Spain’s Unai Simon are the more recent examples. Thus, the new rules should not impact too much on the saving chance. Perhaps the one clear drawback is that the shootout wouldn’t be as entertaining as it was in Qatar last year. It only gets more similar to a pure intense ‘Russian roulette.’

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