Quintic Penalty Shootout
Forget the cheeky stuttering run-up, or giving the keeper 'the eyes'. Dr Paul Hurrion and his sports biomechanics team at Quintic have nailed a formula for taking the perfect penalty.
They have developed some hi-tech software which they claim can be used to help coach anyone to hit an unstoppable strike from 12 yards...
SoccerBible was invited to put the software on the spot at Chichester University's Sports Science department. Former Queens Park Rangers striker and dead-ball specialist Kevin Gallen was on hand to give a pro's verdict.
First, Dr Hurrion explained his theory for the perfect PK: If the ball is struck at or above 25 metres per second (approx 56 miles per hour) into an area within a one-metre radius of the corner of the goal frame, the penalty is un-saveable. No keeper in the world can keep it out.
Then, the shoot out began, with a regulation 11-a-side goal set up inside a sports hall to rule out interference from weather factors. A hoop was attached to each corner of the goal to outline the vital one metre zone. And with a local amateur goalkeeper between the sticks, it was time for Kevin to boot up.
Every penalty powered into the target zone left the goalie with no chance. And it was the same when the goal was moved back 10 yards for direct free-kick practice. The Quintic software used a high-speed camera (300 frames per second) to track small reflective markers stuck to a Nike Seitiro, Official Football of the Premier League.
This produced a detailed computer analysis of the speed and different spins imparted on the ball, the launch angle of the strike and the area of impact between boot and ball. Three additional high-speed cameras also captured a multi-angled view of the strikers' technique which, when replayed in slow motion, can highlight where the shot went right or wrong.
The closer to the centre of the ball you hit, the more efficiently your energy is transferred to it, which means more power and less spin. Getting your knee and body over the top of the ball can help to keep the ball trajectory down and on target.
Dr Hurrion added: My vision is that through practicing the perfect penalty, you can bring that to an in-match scenario. Currently, players tend to spend half an hour after a training session practicing their set pieces. The technique is just based on a feeling they have. The next day, that feeling may be different.
The software records and quantifies exactly what goes on with each strike. Your most successful penalties set a mathematical benchmark that you can revisit and replicate. We also use the software for improving indirect free-kick and corner delivery. To be the best in elite- level football, there's no room for error. Arsenal went 179 Premier League corners without scoring [a run ended by Thomas Vermaelen in December 2011] and that, to me, is such a waste of opportunities.
The software has been trialled at the Manchester City Youth Academy and also by Cristiano Ronaldo. Dr Hurrion added: The tests we ran with Ronaldo were exciting. He's a very intelligent striker of the ball. He has a great awareness of his own technique. He was able to tell me accurately how much pace he was putting on the ball with each strike and how his different striking techniques cause the ball to spin differently in mid-air.
Former QPR hitman Kevin Gallen, now a youth coach working with 12 to18 year-olds at the Premier League club gave SoccerBible his verdict on the Quintic system.
It s very interesting to watch the footage and take another look at your run-up and the way you strike the ball. It s definitely something club coaches could look at, especially for set piece takers. It would be great if it could help young academy players to learn good technique at an early stage in their career.
It is difficult to take a penalty or set piece in a match situation. In front of a big crowd you can get nervy. But if you practice enough and know where you want to put the ball, it can become second nature. The England national team should be practicing penalties a lot ahead of Euro 2012!
England tend to get into situations where they face a shootout and, unfortunately, they've lost a few. Perhaps this tool could help them out.
You can learn more about Quintic Sports Analysis software at www.quintic.com, and have your say and join the conversation online, on Twitter and on Facebook.