Friday, 5 May 2017

Will penalty shoot-out changes make any difference for England?

UEFA has announced that it is going to trial a change to penalty shoot-outs. At the moment, its research shows, 60% of the time the side that takes the first kick wins, which essentially means that the coin toss has a fair chance of determining who goes through to the next round.

The logic is that there's slightly more pressure on the team going second, because as the duel progresses they know that their miss would send them out, whereas their opponents would still get one more chance should they miss.

The proposal is to change the structure so that the teams alternate who goes first in each round of strikes. It's been explained as following an ABBA format instead of ABAB.

But the statistics aren't supported by England's experiences in shoot-outs. Their record of defeats on penalties is:

1990 - World Cup - lost to West Germany - England went first
1996 - Euros - lost to Germany - England went first
1998 - World Cup - lost to Argentina - Argentina went first
2004 - Euros - lost to Portugal - England went first
2006 - World Cup - lost to Portugal - Portugal went first
2012 - Euros - lost to Italy - Italy went first

That's six defeats on penalties, three when they went first and three when they went second, so based on England's experience there's no advantage either way - you'll beat England whenever you take your kicks.

However, the one time England did win on penalties, against Spain in the Euro 96, they went first, so perhaps there is some sort of advantage.

So would England have beaten Argentina, Portugal and Italy if the ABBA method had been used? Of course, we'll never know. Probably not given England's terrible penalty-taking skills, and they haven't looked like needing penalties to go out of tournaments lately.