Penalties: Not as Much of a Crapshoot As You Think, v 2.0

Many moons ago, when Backpost was in its infancy, we wrote this post about penalties and all the hidden complexities that go into the apparently simple exercise of one man trying to kick a ball past another from 12 yards.

We quoted from Soccernomics, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, who wrote, in a fascinating chapter called “The Economist’s Fear of the Penalty Kick,” that “economists revere the penalty as a real-life example of game theory.”

This week, the economists are at it again with the penalty-kick studies. A report from the London School of Economics and Political Science claims that penalty-shootouts are “unfair” because the team kicking first has a 60 percent chance of winning the shootout.

Spearheaded by professor Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, the report claims that the team shooting second is always under psychological pressure of “’lagging behind’ and that that “clearly affects” their performance.

The good professor suggests that FIFA adopt the tie-break system used in tennis, where opponents have two consecutive serves, to make the shootout more fair. In other words, he suggests one team take the first kick, then their opponents take the next two, then they get two, and so on, in an ABBAABBAAB format, as opposed to the current ABABABABAB system, which, the economist argues (after examining 282 shootouts), confers a 20 percent advantage on team A.

You can now look for FIFA to completely ignore these findings.

For more on the report, click here.


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