Small change would make alternating penalty kicks fairer

Football is an exciting sport exactly because of its unpredictability. Just as the favorite team can get into a game and strike their opponents, as expected, two teams on equal terms can play a wholly unremarkable situation, such as the fateful Brazil and Germany in 2014.

Nevertheless, some situations have little more than luck involved. When a dispute goes for alternating penalty kicks, as is common in the decisive stages of the World Cup, the first kicker has advantages. This is a well-known fact among field professionals and statisticians, so Steve Brams of New York University and Mehmet Ismail of Maastricht University decided to suggest a new order of charges.

Search result

The two researchers study game theory, and their suggestion is something that would change the dynamics of collections, but it is far from a radical change. What they called the “catch-up rule” would make the charges not keep the same order from start to finish.

In the new situation, it would be necessary to consider penalty kicks as separate rounds, one for each side. If both teams score, the order reverses in the next round, and the one who hit first now waits to give the second kick. But if one of the teams does not score, he will be the first collector of the next round, regardless of the order of the hits.

The sequence of charges is defined by the team captain's choice after the referee spins a coin to raffle who will make the definition. It may seem complicated, but the modification would lessen the pressure of always being behind on the scoreboard.

Theoretical analysis

Previous studies have already analyzed the results of major tournament penalty shootouts between 1970 and 2013, and found that 60% of the time the first kicker was won. Even teams and coaches are aware of this advantage, as a study published by the American Economic Review confirmed that 90% of the captains' choices, after the judge raffled who would decide the order of charges, were to beat the first penalty.

The article was not limited to football; Other sports were also analyzed and whether changes to their rules would benefit the game. One situation the researchers considered fair was the way tie-break works in a tennis match, as it provides a level playing field for each player. In it the services, or serves, alternate, and it is necessary a difference of 2 points for the victory on the set to be decreed.

The authors of the study said that “in almost all competitive sports, the rules allow for some element of luck, ” and their work sought to point out which situations may have the rules slightly altered so that the responsibility for results is for the most part, of the athletes.


Do you know the Mega Curioso newsletter? Weekly, we produce exclusive content for lovers of the biggest curiosities and bizarres of this big world! Register your email and do not miss this way to keep in touch!