Penalty taking: the most underrated aspect of football?

The history of football has seen some of the most crucial matches decided through penalties. While it’s often looked at as a spot-kick from 12 yards, it’s not seen the same way by the players, who know the responsibility that comes with stepping up and taking the kick, be it in the final moments of an important game or any high-stakes game for the matter. From last gasp winners to title deciders, penalties have been of a lot of help but it’s only in the hands of the most ice-cold players, to convert them. If penalties are too easy to take, then why do a lot of incredibly gifted players back out when a penalty is won? Is it a sign that penalty-taking isn’t for everybody? Maybe, it is. Is penalty taking the most underrated aspect of football? Let’s find out.

Why is penalty taking the most underrated aspect of football?

You get what you earn –

While goals scored from the spot are often overlooked by fans, it should be noted that a penalty won happens as a result of a foul committed inside the box. The foul happens as a result of the opposition finding it hard to contain the pressure from the team or a player in particular. This means it’s earned.

High priority to penalty-taking –

Penalty taking is one of the first few things a coach strives to get right when he or she arrives at a club. An act that could look like a simple kick is often met with a lot of backlash when it’s not converted.  Penalty taking is a challenge that even the biggest teams across the world struggle with. From a statistical standpoint, Manchester City only managed to convert a crest falling 6 of their 11 penalties this past season in the Premier League. This comes to a conversion percentage of 54.5%. This stat stresses upon the need of an expert penalty-taker who can soak up all the pressure and complete the challenge.

Something too simple but yet too difficult-

Penalties are often overlooked because of the very perception that fans hold, and this perception is a preconceived notion that stems from the lack of experience and consideration that one possesses due it being a kick from no so afar.  This added responsibility of taking and scoring a penalty, while fighting through various emotions from within, is something that often gets overshadowed by the fact that it’s just a spot-kick from 12 yards. It’s usually something very simple that makes us sweat more than anything else, as there is a likelihood of embarrassment and harassment from the fans or even team-mates in the aftermath.

A trip down the penalty lane-

When taking a trip down the memory lane, there are plenty of matches that were won due to penalties won during crucial moments, like the penalty that Xabi Alonso scored to seal a comeback against the then mighty AC Milan in the Champions League final in 2005. That began Liverpool’s insurmountable dream of rising to the top of the European cream once again. Or the time when Marcus Rashford, at the mere age of 21, had to step up to seal an almost impossible outcome in Paris. Or the time when Leicester City missed a last gasp penalty in the Championship play-off Semi-final, which ultimately resulted in Troy Deeney pulling a rabbit out of the hat with a goal in the last few seconds of the game. The memories are almost endless.

The numbers don’t lie-

Penalty-taking isn’t for everyone, some times not even the best. As the saying goes, “Even the greatest miss penalties”, as is the case with even Messi and Ronaldo. While they’re both confident every time they take their famous strides during a penalty, their respective penalty conversion rates stand at 84%(all competitions excluding penalty shootouts) and 77.77%(all competitions excluding penalty shootouts). Even the best feel the nerves at times or tend to make the wrong gamble while choosing the right side to shoot.

In short, penalty-taking is an ability that will forever be elusive and will not be overlooked by any coach in football, irrespective of the perception of the fans.

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