Penalty Kick In Soccer: Meaning, Rules & Strategy

One of the highest percentage shots in soccer is when players get the opportunity to kick a penalty. It can happen after a serious infraction during the match, or at the end of the score is tied and a winner is necessary.

A penalty kick in soccer is a huge part of the match, and can make or break whether or not a team can win. Knowing when they occur, the rules, and more is a big part of the game.

What Is a Penalty Kick In Soccer?

A penalty kick in soccer takes place from the penalty kick spot in the penalty box on the soccer field. It is essentially a one-on-one matchup between the person taking the kick, and the goalkeeper.

Once the ball is kicked during regulation, the ball is live for all other players on the field to play. If it is a penalty kick at the end of a tied game, there is no chance for the other players to play the ball after it’s struck.

Penalty Kicks During Regulation Play

A penalty kick goes to a team if there is a foul called inside of the penalty area. Instead of taking a direct free kick, a player gets a chance to shoot a shot against the goalkeeper from the penalty mark.

The penalty mark is 11 meters away from the goal line, and is in the center of the pitch. It largely favors the player taking the shot, especially at the highest levels. Most players can put the ball where they want to, so as long as the goalkeeper does not guess correctly, it leads to a goal.

Due to the high chance of scoring a goal, these are pivotal parts of the game. Fouls that occur inside of the penalty box are usually argued quite a bit because of this.

All other players on the teams have to stay outside of the penalty area and at least 10 yards from the penalty mark. This is where the penalty arc comes into play on the lines.

Goalkeepers can move around before the ball is kicked, but they must stay on the line and between the goal post when the shot happens. One foot needs to be touching or in line with the goal line when the kicker makes contact with the ball.

Since this is a one-on-one battle, there’s a lot of deception and distracting moves made by both the penalty taker, and the goalkeeper. Everything happens so quickly, it’s mostly a guessing game as to where the ball is going to go. Goalkeepers of the highest level will make sure that they study opponents and pick up on tendencies as far as where they like to kick corner kicks from time to time.

As soon as the ball is kicked, all other players can enter the penalty area for a potential rebound. This can create chaos in the middle of a match, and also lead to goal-scoring opportunities shortly after the penalty kick. Only the kicker is restricted from making contact with the ball until someone else touches it first.

Penalty Kick Rules

There are quite a few rules that go with penalty kicks, and that means punishments are required to keep the integrity of the game. These are a look at the most common rules related to penalty kicks.

Goal: A goal stands unless there is a violation by the attacking team. If they get called for a violation, a re-kick is required.

Out of bounds: In most cases, a ball that goes out of bounds without touching the goalkeeper results in a goal kick. If the goalie causes a violation, a re-kick is necessary.

Rebounds and held balls: Play continues as soon as there is a rebound off of the goalkeeper or goal frame, or if the goalkeeper grabs the ball and holds it. If there’s a violation by the defense, a re-kick occurs.

Out of bounds off the goalkeeper: With no violation, a corner kick goes to the attacking team. They are awarded a re-kick if the defense causes a violation, but if the violation is on the attacking team, it changes to an indirect free kick.

Penalty Shootout During Overtime

If penalty kicks decide who wins the match after regulation and overtime, there are different rules for them. In this case, each team has five opportunities to kick a penalty kick, and the team with the most ends up winning the contest.

  • 5 Penalty Kicks For Each Team

The two teams alternate kicks while everyone else remains in the center circle. If more than five goals are necessary, it will be sudden death with each subsequent round. If one team has an insurmountable lead, the match ends.

An example of this is if one team scores on each of their first three attempts, while the other team misses on all three tries. Since it’s impossible for the team trailing to come back, the match is over.

The Controversy Around Penalty Kicks

There are a lot of people who believe that penalty kicks are not exactly the fairest way to determine which team is better. Plenty feels strongly against having penalty kicks at all, let alone as a way to determine a champion.

There are positives and negatives to penalty kicks, as there is really no perfect solution. There is an opportunity for players and teams to go on and on until someone scores, but that can severely impact player health. Teams only have a limited amount of substitutions, and that makes it hard to play an infinite amount of minutes until someone breaks through.

Ultimately, it does make for some great television when two teams are battling it out and trying to get that last goal to win at all. It might not be the fairest way to determine the winner, but after so much competition between the two teams, this is the most definitive way to determine a winner.

How Do Goalkeepers Strategize During Penalty Kicks?

Players in goal usually have the upper hand when defending during regular action, but the tables turn with a penalty kick. All of a sudden, the kicker is the one with the upper hand, as they will score more often than not.

Goalkeepers tend to use one of two strategies to do their best to prevent penalty shots from going in. The first is trying to read the kicker based on their approach towards the ball. By reacting, it’s going to be far too late. Picking up on reads is a better way to go when trying to lean a certain way.

Another tactic is researching the kicker’s history as much as possible. With so much more data out there readily available, teams scout every player who might take penalty kicks on the opposing team. If a player tends to go in a certain direction, goalkeepers can cheat that way to have success.

The Final Word on Penalty Kicks

Love them or hate them, penalty kicks are here to stay. It seems unlikely that any major rule changes are coming down the line, so fans and players need to get used to their importance. Defenses need to be particularly careful when they are in the penalty box, because a foul in that area could result in a penalty kick.

If teams want to avoid putting their fate on the line in a penalty shootout, they need to be more aggressive during regulation play. Underdogs sometimes use this as a strategy, as they take their chances in penalty kicks instead of battling traditionally.

Penalty kicks are often confounded with free kicks – you can learn more about free kicks in this post.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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