Even the best goalies are predictable

Knew you'd do that... Scientists have found goalkeepers attempts to dive for a ball follow a pattern.

Penalty shoot-outs in football could be a piece of cake for the kicker if he knows what to look for. Researchers have found goalies’ attempts to dive for the ball follow a predictable pattern.

After kickers repeatedly kick in one direction, goalkeepers become increasingly likely to dive in the opposite direction, according to an analysis of all 361 kicks from the 37 penalty shootouts during the World Cup and UEFA Euro Cup matches over 36 years. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

“Cognitive fallacies can affect all of us, even if we are considered expert performers in a particular field,” says report co-author Patrick Haggard of the University College London. “It is important to try to be aware of situations in which we may be vulnerable to bad decision making. Then we may be able to avoid making mistakes.”

“In a penalty shootout, a goalkeeper and a group of kickers do their best to outwit each other,” Haggard’s co-author Erman Misirlisoy says. “How they control their behaviour gives an insight into cognitive strategies more generally.”

Misirlisoy suggests that the best strategy for a goalkeeper could be to decide on a random sequence of dives before the game and follow that sequence regardless of what kickers do.

  1. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)00839-2
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