Penalty kicks: What, when, why and other rules

Jordan Pickford saves penalty
England's Jordan Pickford saves Carlos Bacca's penalty, knocking Colombia out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Moscow, Russia [EPA]

Your heart is in your throat, the bottom has dropped out of your stomach.

Ordinarily calm and rational, you have become an electric bag of nerves held together by the finest thread of hope, slowly unravelled by despair. It’s a World Cup penalty shootout.

For a team game, it’s the ultimate duel with victory or defeat riding on a single boot or glove.

The penalty shootout format was only adopted in 1970 and did not reach the World Cup until the semi-final of Spain 1982 when West Germany knocked out France 5-4.

It’s thrilling, it’s devastating, it creates heroes of saviour keepers and villains of strikers who miss.

These are split seconds that define entire careers.

What is a penalty kick?

Penalty kicks are direct free kicks taken from a spot 11 metres (12 yards) in front of the centre of the goal.

During a match, they are awarded to an attacking team for a foul committed against them in the 18-yard box, or “penalty area” – a marked region of the pitch extending 16.5 metres (18 yards) out from each goalpost, and 16.5 metres in depth.

Goal and penalty area
The goal and penalty area of a football pitch [CC/Grover Cleveland]

What results in a penalty being awarded?

  • Deliberately touching the ball with a hand or arm (other than the goalkeeper)
  • Careless, reckless, or excessive use of force to charge, jump, kick, challenge, push, strike, or kick an attacking player
  • Holding an opponent
  • Spitting at or biting an opponent or official
  • Throwing something at the ball, opponent, or official, or hitting an object with the ball with

What happens when it is awarded?

  • The ball is placed on the penalty spot regardless of where the foul occurred.
  • The penalty taker is identified to the referee.
  • All players other than the kicker and the keeper must leave the penalty area, standing behind the spot, and a minimum of 9.15 metres (10 yards) from the spot. During penalty shoot-outs, all players remain in the central circle in the middle of the pitch.
  • The goalkeeper may move before the ball is kicked, but must stay on the goal line, facing the kicker, without touching the goalposts, crossbar or net.
  • The referee blows a whistle to announce the kick should be taken.
  • Once the kicker reaches the ball, their last step and kick must be in one fluid motion.
  • When the kick is taken, the keeper must be touching the goal line.
Gareth Southgate comforts Miguel Borja with Jose Pekerman
England manager Gareth Southgate, right, who as a 26-year-old famously missed the penalty which saw England knocked out of Euro 96 and subsequently endured years of abuse, comforts Miguel Borja, centre, after Colombia were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by England in a penalty shootout [EPA]

The rules

  • The ball must be stationary on the spot before the kick
  • The ball must travel forward
  • Other players must not enter the penalty area until the ball has been kicked
  • The kicker must not kick the ball a second time unless it has been touched by another player
  • Only the player identified to the referee may take the penalty kick
  • The kicker must not feint at the end of their run-up

What happens if penalty rules are broken?

Depending on the foul and outcome, the following may apply:

FA summary of punishments for fouls during penalties
England FA’s summary of punishments for fouls during penalties []

When did penalties become a thing?

Despite the laws of the game being codified in 1863, it was not until the Irish Football Association brought the idea to the International Football Association Board in 1891 that penalty kicks became a part of football.

At that time, a penalty kick was awarded for foul play committed within 11metres (12 yards) of the goal line (the 18-yard box not being part of football until 1902). It could also be taken from any point along the width of the pitch on that 11-metre line.

When are penalty shoot-outs used?

A shootout is used to tie-break a match that has ended in a draw.

At the knockout matches in a tournament, including the World Cup, if a game in the knock-out stages has an equal number of goals scored after 90 minutes of play, an additional 30 minutes is played, with the teams switching ends during a short break after 15 minutes. If, at the end of this extra time, the scores remain even, a penalty shootout is held.

Source: Al Jazeera