Yesterday brought us the first penalty shootouts of the World Cup. We saw great penalties, great saves, but also players struggle with the pressure. Penalty shootouts, for footballers, are one of, if not, the most stressful situations in the game. You can practise them daily, but never replicate the pressure that you are put under.
All players feel the pressure, whether you are playing for England, or a Sunday league/ youth team.
The main aspect is how to cope with this pressure, what can you do to increase your chances of scoring?
Sometimes it can feel like a lottery as to whether you score or miss, however, it isn't. You are in control.
Firstly, practise is key. You can't replicate the pressure of a penalty shootout in your training. But, you can make sure that you are confident in your ability. Practise your run up, positioning of standing foot, and your technique. The more you do this, the more you will hit the back of the net. Increasing your confidence when the time does come to step up and place the ball on the spot.
Then you must learn how to focus purely on yourself and deal with the pressure.
One of the key areas to scoring a penalty is to control your emotions. There were players yesterday who are superstars, player's you would feel extremely confident in scoring penalties, Modric, Koke, Iago Aspas and earlier in the tournament, Messi. They all missed.
That wasn't because of their ability, it was due to the emotion of the moment and the pressure they felt under.
When the next shootout comes around, (hopefully not England!) watch carefully. The players that miss typically rush their kick, aiming to get the moment out of the way quickly. As soon as the referee blows their whistle, they step up and quickly strike the ball. Those who do this are at a disadvantage, giving themselves less time be composed.
The player's that score will be calm, take their time, and strike the ball when they are ready.
If you are taking a penalty wait three to five seconds after the referee blows the whistle. Focus on the ball, your technique and picture yourself scoring. These extra seconds will calm you down, allowing you to take a deep breath and focus on your technique.
If you've practised your penalties enough in training then your technique will be there. We don't make good decisions when rushing, take your time and believe in your ability, knowing that you have practised this countless times.