Goalkeepers not to blame for England's football penalty curse

Goalkeepers not to blame for England's football penalty curse
England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty during the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England on 11 July 2021Image source,
Image caption,
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made two saves during the shoot-out that decided the Euro 2020 final this year

England's football goalkeepers are not responsible for a perceived "penalty curse", which overshadows their performance in major tournaments.

German researchers investigated whether a goalkeeper's nationality influenced their success rate against penalties.

They found that, statistically, English male keepers perform just as well as goalies from other nations.

They suggest other factors influenced disappointing performances, including the weight of expectation on the squad.

The scientists analysed a sample of 2,379 penalties taken at the World Cup and Euros, in the Champions League and at Europa League matches, with 629 different goalkeepers standing between the posts.

They then compared the success rates of goalkeepers from different nations, but found no significant differences based on country of origin.

"English goalkeepers are not responsible for England's poor performance in penalty shoot-outs in the past, as they perform just as well as goalkeepers from other nations," said Prof Daniel Memmert from the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (German Sport University Cologne).

The study's lead author Michel Brinkschulte, from the same institute, said the reasons for past losses on penalties "most likely lie in a number of factors - including the enormous external pressure when it comes to this decisive moment at the end of an important match, the expectations of their own fans and the expected negative media coverage if success is not achieved".

The same team previously published a study showing that than players from other nations.

The latest analysis absolves those players on the other side of the equation in a penalty shoot-out - the keepers.

England fans look dejected in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, after England's exit from the 2006 World Cup quarter final match against Portugal, which they lost on penaltiesImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
England's past performances during major tournaments have led to perceptions of a "penalty curse"

The average success rate across the sample was 22.23%, which means that just over one in five penalties was saved by the goalkeeper.

When taking all penalty kicks into account - including shoot-outs and in-game penalties across all four tournaments looked at by the study - the average success rate of English goalkeepers was 28.45%.

This was the second best among the nationalities analysed, right behind Spain with an average rate of 28.75%.

However, the study did not reveal any meaningful differences between the success rates of keepers from different countries.

England have lost on penalties seven times at the World Cup and European Championships since shoot-outs were introduced.

In their study, Dr Brinkschulte, Prof Memmert, and colleagues Philip Furley and Max Klemp suggest that an effect known as the "stereotype threat" can compound the problem. Past psychological research has shown that simply introducing a stereotype into a social group can hamper its performance on particular tasks.

In their scientific paper, the researchers write: "We see it as theoretically possible that the continued existence of the stereotype of the 'English goalkeeper problem' could potentially have negative consequences, as the mere knowledge about this stereotype might contribute to English goalkeepers underperforming (when facing penalties or during matches in general) in the sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy."

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