I did a post last year on game theory and penalty kicks which looked at the 2008 UEFA Champions League final – Chelsea v Manchester Utd.
From the data collected by Basque economist Ignacio Palacios-Huerta he calculated the proportion of successful penalty kicks. He also noticed that the then Man Utd midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo often pauses in his run-up and if he does the ball is kicked towards the right hand side of the keeper. Furthermore, his research showed that when he does pause 85% of the time Ronaldo kicks to the right hand side of the goalkeeper. It is important that the goalkeeper does not move early as Ronaldo seems to be able to change his mind where to put the ball at the very last instant. When a goalkeeper moves early Ronaldo always scores. Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 2008 Champions League Final v Chelsea – see above post for video. He paused in his run-up and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech stayed upright for as long as possible and dived right to save the penalty.
Champions League semi-final second leg – Real Madrid v Bayern Munich
Penalty 1 – Ronaldo runs up very slowly but doesn’t pause. He puts the ball to the Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s left and scores. Neuer dives right maybe expecting the ball to go right
Penalty 2 (penalty shoot out) – Again Ronaldo runs up quite slowly and puts the ball to the Neuer’s right. Neuer dives right and saves. Did Neuer play the percentages and believe (like the research showed) that 85% of kicks by Ronaldo go the goalkeeper’s right (even though he didn’t actually pause) or was it guess work? One wonders if Neuer had a strategy? He dived right for 3 out of the 4 penalties in the shootout and saved 2.