Italy won the Euro 2020 final against England with a penalty shootout. Here’s why penalty kicks are so unfair to goalies.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: 0.4 seconds. That’s the time it takes you to blink. It’s also about how long goalkeepers have to save a penalty kick or fail trying. And it’s certainly not enough time for a goalie to react and respond. So goalies can’t solely rely on their speed and agility to save a penalty kick. Instead, they have to pretty much guess which direction to go and rely on either luck or game theory.

Game theory is a popular strategy in economics where the outcome of a situation relies more on how well you predict your opponent’s actions than how you perform your own. So since the goalie has no choice but to guess, they’re better off guessing logically than randomly. That’s where economists come in.

Ignacio Palacios-Huerta: I would like to know what you do in the last 80 penalty kicks you faced? Do you have any tendencies? What does this guy do against right-footed kickers versus left-footed kickers?

Narrator: That’s economist Ignacio Palacios-Huerta. He studied over 11,000 penalty kicks, and in 2008 during the UEFA Champions League Final, it paid off, sort of. It was Manchester United against Chelsea. The game came down to a penalty shootout which was the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to put Huerta’s advice into action.

Along with several pointers Huerta had given Chelsea’s goalie a key insight about Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo would almost certainly kick the ball to the right if he paused on the run-up. And the advice worked. Ronaldo indeed paused and indeed kicked the ball to the right. Chelsea’s goalie followed Huerta’s advice and made the save. Ultimately Manchester United won the game, but despite Chelsea’s loss, it was clear that economists and statisticians can help even the odds when it comes to penalty kicks.

Because otherwise, it’s a crap shoot for the goalie. In 2014 for example, FiveThirtyEight calculated that 72.5% of penalties in World Cup history went in. For all competitions worldwide, it’s even higher. And when you take a closer look, it’s no wonder. Human response time takes roughly 1/10 of a second to kick in. The average kicker kicks a 70 mile per hour ball, which means the goalie won’t even register the ball’s direction until it’s about 25 feet away. It will take him another .5 to .7 seconds to react and reach for the ball, but by that point, it’s all over.

Now the goalie can improve the odds if they start to move before the ball is even kicked, but the goalie still has to basically guess a side and just go for it. So if time is the goalie’s enemy, maybe we should just move the penalty kicker further back. But for now, economists are a goalie’s best friend when it comes to stopping penalty kicks, and turns out, Huerta is helping a team in the 2018 World Cup, though he wouldn’t tell us who.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

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UK ministers were told not to use the phrase ‘it’s coming home’ ahead of the Euros final because it annoys other countries

England captain Harry Kane celebrates scoring the winning goal against Denmark in the Euro 2020 semifinal.
England captain Harry Kane celebrates scoring the winning goal against Denmark in the Euro 2020 semifinal.

  • UK government ministers were told not to use the phrase “it’s coming home” ahead of the Euros final, Politics Home reported.
  • A leaked memo from the department for digital, culture, media, and sport said the phrase annoys other countries.
  • England is playing Italy in the final of the tournament on Sunday evening.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

UK government ministers have been told to avoid using the phrase “it’s coming home” when they are discussing the England football team because it irritates other countries, Politics Home reported.

A leaked memo sent by the department for digital, culture, media, and sport said the phrase – taken from ‘Three Lions,’ a popular song about the England football team – could damage England’s chances of winning a bid to host the World Cup in 2030.

The email said: “As stressed before, please do encourage your Ministers not to use ‘It’s Coming Home’ with the news media and social media.

“I know we’re swimming against the tide, but we know this does not go down well overseas – and strategically we need to do all we can to make ourselves welcoming to the football authorities when the UK and Ireland is scoping out a bid for the 2030 World Cup.”

The phrase “it’s coming home” comes from “Three Lions,” a song released by the Lightning Seeds and comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner to mark the Euro 1996 final.

It referenced the fact that a major international football tournament was being played in England for the first time since the 1966 World Cup, which is characterized as the home of the sport.

But the phrase “it’s coming home” can be seen to annoy other countries who claim the sport originated there.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on July 7 appeared last week to contradict his own government’s advice on the use of the phrase, tweeting “Let’s bring it home” after England defeated Denmark in the semi-final of the tournament.

The email came as England prepared to play Italy in the final of the Euro 2020 tournament, which was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time England has played in the final of the tournament, and only the second time in history that the team has played in the final of a major international tournament.

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