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There is no right way to take a penalty. Some like to force the goalkeeper to make the first move, others ignore the keeper entirely. Some like to land their shot, some like to blast it. Some have long run-ups, some have short run-ups. Some have weird effects that seem to have no real purpose, some have unusual techniques that few others can match.

But there is one technique that is currently sweeping Europe.

Before the semi-finals, Euro 2024: 36 penalties were taken in ‘open’ play, 11 of which were replays, and 24 in three penalty shoot-outs. Of those, 13 – slightly more than 36 percent – saw players use a hesitancy method on the ball.

From Kai Howertz To Cristiano Ronaldo To Robert Lewandowski To Jude Bellinghamit sounds dangerous, it sounds obtuse, but some of the best players and most reliable penalty takers in the tournament are taking a little break in their run-up to try and get the edge.

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Ronaldo strikes his shootout penalty for Portugal against Slovenia (Marvin Abo Guenguer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

Howertz scored both penalties he took Germany Using this approach. Bellingham, with great confidence, scored one. EnglandShootout win against Switzerland in the quarter finals. PortugalRonaldo missed one without stuttering, then made two runs with it. Lewandowski saved against one. Francebut Mike Magnon Adjudged to have moved too early, it was taken again, and the Polish striker scored.

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It’s not perfect. both of them SloveniaOf Benjamin Werbuck And João Felix Portugal tried this method and failed.

It is also (mildly) controversial. From time to time, you will hear people saying that it should be banned. This was It was actually banned briefly in the 1980s, but the game’s rules these days specifically state that stuttering — or ‘feints’ — are allowed. What is not allowed is ‘kicking the ball after the kicker has completed his run-up’. Which basically means: you can’t stop, you have to keep moving somehow.

Because your run-up is considered complete when you stop, and once you stop you have to kick the ball. If you stop, pause, then hit the ball, the goal (assuming you score) is disallowed, and you get a yellow card.

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There aren’t many examples of this happening, but there was one high-profile example. Lionel MessiTaking a penalty for Barcelona I Champions League Group stage against AC Milan In November 2011. Messi stopped about a yard before the ball, halting his momentum to the point that, when he had to apply some forward force to the penalty, he fell back slightly.

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Goalkeeper Christian Abiati was duly fooled, but immediately protested, and with good reason. Referee Marcus Merck disallowed the penalty, booking Messi and forcing him to take it again. As you won’t be surprised to learn, Messi scored again with a tackle.

A similar thing happened to Paul Pogba earlier that year, when he was playing. Manchester United In an FA Youth Cup tie against Liverpool. Like Messi, he stopped in his run-up before putting the ball into the net, and like Messi, he was also booked for his unsportsmanlike conduct. However, it was a little worse for Pogba: it was his second yellow card of the match, and so he was sent off.

The stuttering penalty goes back to the days when Pele was in his glory. He was fond of the ‘paradinha’ (literal translation: little stop), as it is known in Brazil, as was one of his successors, Romario, who would score his penalty in the 1994 World Cup final in a penalty shootout. Time was stuttering. Italy.

There have been some pretty high profile memories: Spain Was narrowly eliminated from the 2002 World Cup as Joaquín missed a run-up penalty in their quarter-final. South Korea. England’s Jamie Carragher, four years later at the same stage of the next World Cup to take a penalty in a shootout against Portugal, especially brought on in the last few minutes of extra time, stammered.

Another Englishman, Marcus Rashford, missed his penalty in the last Euro final against Italy three years ago, but you could argue that had less to do with the tumultuous run-up and more to do with his previous, highly successful It was out of the ordinary. “I tried a different penalty style to what I usually do,” Rashford wrote in his autobiography. Tried to move quickly and make the penalty easy.” Donnarumma moved to his left, Rashford sent the ball across goal, and… hit the outside of the post.

Although this trick has been quite successful in Euro 2024.

Or, at least it’s been as successful as any other technique: if we’re including both of Lewandowski’s penalties, there have been 13 scrambling moves, 10 of which have been scored. Of the remaining ‘non-stutterers’ a record 23 were taken, 17 scored. In percentage terms, it’s 77 and 74 respectively: given the sample size, that’s not really much.

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Also, defining what a stuttering penalty actually is can be difficult.

It is not—repeat, not—just a slow run-up where the receiver waits for the goalie to commit himself. This is a goalkeeper-only penalty technique, the best example of which came against Messi’s penalty. Saudi Arabia 2022 World Cup group stage: As he gets to the ball, keeper Mohammed Al Owais foolishly tries to fake the right…

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…before diving out incredibly early, allowing Massey to slot it home.

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Neither is the Simone Zaza who played during Italy’s shootout against Germany in the last eight of Euro 2016. It was just a weird effect, a weird impression of a dancing horse that basically didn’t offer anything constructive, and eventually it took its toll. The final miss looks silly five times.

Zaza actually scored a penalty for Sassuolo against Milan a couple of years ago with a real flurry, and some others just ran and hit it, but for some reason the decision to debut this tippy-toe technique. what was European Championship Quarter Finals.

In fact, the best example of a stuttering penalty came elsewhere in the match, and that shootout, by his teammate Leonardo Bonucci: he ran up, making a short break, before hitting the ball. Bonucci scored from the spot during the game, but saw his effort saved in the shootout. Manuel Neuer.

Another Italian, Jorginho, is — or at least was — one of the more prominent stutterers, even if his version was more hoppy. He had a sensational record with his stutter/hop technique, but has since modified it. Missing a couple of high profile fines For your country.

The question is, why bother? Why complicate something that is already difficult enough? The answer is, it’s just one of many ways the penalty taker is trying to get the upper hand on the goalkeeper in this high-pressure situation.

Much of the penalty taker’s routine is to try to fool the keeper as to where they are aiming their kick, be it eye contact, body shape, run-up or whatever.

But stuttering is slightly different: rather than where the kick is going, it’s designed to fool the goalkeeper. when It’s going to kick.

“Their goal is to get you to move quickly, so in the process you reveal part of your goal to their exploitation,” he says. Athletic Goalkeeping specialist Matt Piezdrowski, who played professionally in the United States and Sweden from 2010 to 2018; “I always found a no-nonsense shooter who would just run up to the ball and make it easy for me to time the dive, because I could. Make sure to count their steps in the run-up and get ready to pounce. “The stuttering step makes it very difficult to do.”

A good, if slightly inconsistent example of this in action is Lewandowski’s first penalty mentioned earlier, even if he didn’t score.

Barcelona and Poland Adds a version of the forward technique. Brentford and counterparts in England Ivan Toney’s approach, staring at the keeper instead of the ball, and the classic stutter step, fainting before taking the kick.

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Against France, it worked on Lewandowski’s original penalty, as, although Mignon saved it, he was fooled by Dummy and moved so quickly that the referee ordered a replay — as you You can see from the picture above.

As always with penalties, it’s a question of nerve.

“When facing a shooter who prefers to stagger, it’s important to hold your ground as long as possible,” says Piezdrowski. “A lot of times, shooters will be waiting for you to move. Then, when you don’t, it makes them nervous and they press up, or stop their attempt.

Stuttering usually means a shooter sacrifices power and accuracy for flexibility in their strike, but when you find one that can do both, you know you’ve got something special. found They are rare but they exist.”

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Portugal’s Ronaldo is another interesting example. He has seen fluctuations in his approach over the years, but it was interesting to note that the penalty he missed in extra time of the last 16 tie against Slovenia at Euro 2024 was only a quality kick, with a high pace. , was a straight run. -up, and was saved by it quite easily. John Oblock Down to his left.

But when it came time for the shootout that night, once he had wiped the tears from his eyes, Ronaldo staggered back to his feet, and buried his penalty in the opposite corner.

And then in the quarter-final shootout against France, he actually stuttered twice, even coming very close to being penalized by the referee for actually stopping. But it worked, the penalty once again curling into the bottom corner.

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Benching Ronaldo doesn’t mean the end of the world. Martinez failed to learn this.

In the end, everyone takes penalties in the way they feel most comfortable.

Is stuttering somehow more admirable, because in theory it takes more nerve than just running and hitting the ball? Is it just a fluke, the best players in the world showing up because they can? Does it really matter that much?

maybe not. But it sure is enjoyable.

(Top photo: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

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