Penalty kick
A penalty kick is a type of direct free kick
Direct free kick
A direct free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football following a foul. Unlike an indirect free kick, a goal may be scored directly against the opposing side without the ball having first touched another player.-Award:...

 in association football, taken from twelve yards (approximately eleven metres) out from goal and with only the goalkeeper of the defending team between the penalty taker and the goal.

Penalty kicks are performed during normal play. Similar kicks are made in a penalty shootout in some tournaments to determine who progresses after a drawn match; though similar in procedure, these are not penalty kicks and are governed by slightly different rules.

In practice, penalties are converted to goals more often than not, even against world class goalkeepers. This means that penalty awards are often decisive, especially in low-scoring games. Missed penalty kicks are often demoralizing to players because it is an easy opportunity to score.


A penalty kick may be awarded when a defending player commits a foul punishable by a direct free kick
Direct free kick
A direct free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football following a foul. Unlike an indirect free kick, a goal may be scored directly against the opposing side without the ball having first touched another player.-Award:...

 against an opponent or a handball, within the penalty area
Penalty area
The penalty area , is an area of an association football pitch. It is rectangular and extends to each side of the goal and in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot , which is from the goal line, directly in-line with the centre of the goal...

 (commonly known as "the box" or "18 yard box"). Note that it is the location of the offence — and not the position of the ball — that defines whether a foul is punishable by a penalty kick or direct free kick, provided the ball is in play. The location where the foul is originally committed determines whether the penalty is awarded.

The referee signals the award of a penalty kick by blowing the whistle and pointing to the penalty spot.


The penalty kick is taken from the penalty mark, which is a midline spot between the "small" penalty box line and the "big" penalty box line, 12 yards (11 m) from the goal. The penalty kick taker (who does not have to be the player who was fouled) must be clearly identified to the referee
Referee (football)
A referee presides over a game of association football. The referee has "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed" , and the referee's decisions regarding facts connected with play are final, so far as the result of the game is...


All players other than the defending goalkeeper and the penalty taker must be outside the penalty area, behind the penalty mark, and at least ten yards (9.15 m) from the ball (i.e. outside the penalty arc) until the ball is kicked. The goalkeeper must remain between the goalposts on the goal-line facing the ball until the ball is kicked, but may move from side to side along the goal-line. If the goalkeeper moves forward before the ball is kicked, then the penalty must be kicked again if a goal is not scored...

After the referee blows his whistle
A whistle or call is a simple aerophone, an instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means...

, which is the signal for the kick to be taken, the kicker must kick the ball in a forward direction (not necessarily at the goal, though this is almost always the case). The ball must be kicked after a run-up by the taker, who may slow or stop his run during the run-up but may not feint when he is on the point of kicking the ball ("paradinha," Portuguese for "little stop"). If the taker scores after violating this rule, the kick must be re-taken and the kicker must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

The ball is in play once it has been kicked and moved, and at this point in time other players may enter the penalty area and play continues as normal. Most often a goal has already been scored, the ball has been kicked behind the goal line, or the keeper has gained possession of the ball. Sometimes, however, the ball will rebound from the saving keeper or the woodwork; if this happens, any goal that may follow does not count as one scored from penalty, even if a goal is immediately scored from the rebound.

The penalty kick is a form of direct free kick, meaning that a goal may be scored directly from it. If a goal is not scored, play continues as usual. As with all free kicks, the kicker may not play the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player. Thus the kicker may play the ball a second time (possibly scoring a goal) if the ball rebounds off the keeper; but not if the ball rebounds directly off the posts without having touched the keeper or any other player.

A penalty kick is unusual in that, unlike general play, external interference directly after the kick has been taken may result in the kick being retaken, rather than the usual dropped-ball
A dropped-ball is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. It is designed to offer no advantage to either side, generally being awarded when play has been stopped due to reasons other than normal gameplay or misconduct.-Award:A drop-ball is not awarded to either team; rather...


An own goal
Own goal
An own net occurs in goal-scoring games when a player scores a goal that is registered against his or her own team. It is usually accidental, and may be a result of an attempt at defensive play that failed or was spoiled by opponents....

 may not be scored by the kicking team directly from the penalty spot, unless another player touches the ball. This would be almost impossible in any case since the ball has to be kicked in a forward direction to be a valid penalty kick. If the ball were to wind up in the kicking team's goal (for example, if the kick were to ricochet off the defending team's goalpost, travel the length of the pitch, and go into the opposite goal without being touched by any other player), a corner kick
Corner kick
A corner kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. It was first devised in Sheffield under the Sheffield Rules 1867...

 would be awarded to the defending team. An own goal can result from a penalty if the defending goalkeeper (or another member of the defending side) were to deflect a stopped or errant shot into the defending team's goal.

Tap penalty

A two-man penalty or "tap" penalty occurs when the penalty-taker, instead of shooting to score a goal, taps the ball slightly forward and to the side so that a team-mate can run on to it. The team-mate, like all other players, must be at least ten yards from the penalty spot when the ball is kicked. This strategy depends on the element of surprise, so that the team-mate can reach the ball ahead of any defenders. It was made famous by Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff
Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON , known as Johan Cruyff, is a retired Dutch footballer and is currently the manager of the Catalan national team as well as a member of the AFC Ajax board of directors. He won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974, which is a record jointly held with...

 in a match for AFC Ajax in 1982.

Arsenal F.C.
Arsenal Football Club is a professional English Premier League football club based in North London. One of the most successful clubs in English football, it has won 13 First Division and Premier League titles and 10 FA Cups...

 players Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry
Thierry Daniel Henry is a French professional footballer who plays for the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer.Henry was born in Les Ulis, Essonne where he played for an array of local sides as a youngster and showed great promise as a goal-scorer. He was spotted by AS Monaco in 1990 and...

 and Robert Pires
Robert Pirès
Robert Emmanuel Pirès is a former French international footballer. He is perhaps best known for his time with Arsenal, with whom he won three FA Cups and two FA Premier League titles including the club's famous unbeaten season of 2003–04...

 famously failed in an attempt at a similar penalty in 2005, during a Premier League match against Manchester City
Manchester City F.C.
Manchester City Football Club is an English Premier League football club based in Manchester. Founded in 1880 as St. Mark's , they became Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887 and Manchester City in 1894...

 at Highbury
Arsenal Stadium
Arsenal Stadium was a football stadium in Highbury, North London, which was the home ground of Arsenal Football Club between 6 September 1913 and 7 May 2006...

. Pires ran in to take the kick, attemped to pass to the onrushing Henry but miskicked; as he had touched the ball (but barely moved it) he could not touch it again, a City defender (Sylvain Distin
Sylvain Distin
Sylvain Distin is a French footballer who plays for English Premier League side Everton.-Early career:Born in Bagnolet, Distin started his career at French non-league side Joue-les-Tours before moving to Tours a year later, where he played 26 times and scored three goals. He then transferred to...

) reached the ball before Henry.


Infringements of the penalty kick law by either team are dealt with using an advantage concept.

  • For infringements by the defending team, before the kick is taken, should a goal be scored it stands, otherwise the kick is retaken.
  • For infringements by the kicking team, should a goal be scored the kick is retaken, otherwise an indirect free kick
    Indirect free kick
    An indirect free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. Unlike a direct free kick, a goal may not be scored directly from the kick. The law was derived from the Sheffield Rules that stated that no goal could be scored from a free kick...

     is awarded against his side where the infringement occurred.
  • For infringements by both teams, the kick is retaken.
  • If the kicker plays the ball twice (including following up a rebound off the goalpost not touched by the goalkeeper), an indirect free kick
    Indirect free kick
    An indirect free kick is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. Unlike a direct free kick, a goal may not be scored directly from the kick. The law was derived from the Sheffield Rules that stated that no goal could be scored from a free kick...

     is awarded against his side, from where the offence occurred as is usual for free kicks (Subject to Law 8)

The referee may also caution (yellow card) players for infringements of the penalty kick law, e.g. repeated encroaching into the penalty area. Note that in practice, most minor penalty kick infringements are not penalised.

Note that all offences before kick are dealt with in this manner. For example if a defender impedes the progress of an opponent (either towards or away from the penalty area) before the kick is taken (even if the offence is not in the penalty area) then should the kicker not score, the kick will be retaken. Other offences by either the defending or attacking team before the kick regardless of their nature are dealt with subject to the four main requirements above.

Strategy to save a penalty

Defending against a penalty kick is one of the most difficult tasks a goalkeeper can face. Due to the short distance between the penalty spot and the goal, there is very little time to react to the shot. Because of this, the goalkeeper will usually start his or her dive before the ball is actually struck. In effect, the goalkeeper must act on his best prediction about where the shot will be aimed. Some keepers decide which way they will dive beforehand, thus giving themselves a good chance of diving in time. Others try to read the kicker's motion pattern. On the other side kickers often feign and prefer a relatively slow shot in an attempt to foil the keeper. The potentially most fruitful approach, shooting high and center, i.e. in the space that the keeper will evacuate, also carries the highest risk of shooting above the bar.

As the shooter makes his approach to the ball, the keeper has only a few seconds to "read" the shooter's motions and decide where the ball will go. If their guess is correct, this may result in a saved penalty. Helmuth Duckadam
Helmuth Duckadam
Helmuth Robert Duckadam is a retired Romanian footballer who played as a goalkeeper.He was dubbed "the hero of Seville" due to his heroics in the 1986 European Cup Final, won by his main club, Steaua Bucureşti...

, the goalkeeper of Steaua Bucharest saved a record 4 consecutive penalties in the 1986 European Cup Final
1986 European Cup Final
The 1986 European Cup Final was a football match held at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville, on 7 May 1986, that saw Steaua Bucureşti of Romania defeat Barcelona of Spain in an extraordinary penalty shoot out, after 120 minutes of play could not separate the two sides...

, against FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona
Futbol Club Barcelona , also known as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is a professional football club, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain....

. He dived 3 times to the right and a 4th time to his left to save all penalties taken and securing victory for his team.

A goalkeeper may also rely on knowledge of the shooter's past behavior to inform his decision. An example of this would be by former Netherland national team goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen who always had a box with cards with all the information about the opponents penalty specialist. Another example is Portugal national team goalkeeper Ricardo
Ricardo Pereira
Ricardo Alexandre Martins Soares Pereira, OIH , simply Ricardo, is a Portuguese footballer who plays for Vitória de Setúbal as a goalkeeper....

 in a match against England in the 2006 World Cup, where he saved 3 penalties. The match between Argentina
Argentina national football team
The Argentina national football team represents Argentina in association football and is controlled by the Argentine Football Association , the governing body for football in Argentina. Argentina's home stadium is Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti and their head coach is Alejandro...

 and Germany
Germany national football team
The Germany national football team is the football team that has represented Germany in international competition since 1908. It is governed by the German Football Association , which was founded in 1900....

 also came down to penalties and Jens Lehmann
Jens Lehmann
Jens Gerhard Lehmann is a German former football goalkeeper. He was voted UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year for the 1996–97 and 2005–06 seasons, and he has been selected for three World Cup squads. He was a member of Arsenal's Invincibles, playing every match of their famous unbeaten title winning...

 was seen looking at a piece of paper kept in his sock before each Argentinian player would come forward for a penalty kick. It is presumed that information on each kicker's "habits" were written on this paper. This approach may not always be successful; the player may intentionally switch from his favoured spot after witnessing the goalkeeper obtaining knowledge of his kicks. Most times, especially in amateur football, the goalkeeper is often forced to guess. A 2011 study published in the journal Psychological Science found goalkeepers dove to the right 71% of the time when their team was losing, but only 48%% when ahead and 49% when tied, a phenomenon believed to be related to certain right-preferring behavior in social mammals.

The goalkeeper also may try to distract the penalty taker, as the expectation is on the penalty taker to succeed, hence more pressure on the penalty taker, making him more vulnerable to mistakes. For example, in the 2008 Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea, Edwin Van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar OON is a former footballer who played as a goalkeeper for AFC Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United. He is the most capped player in the Netherlands national football team's history...

 pointed to his left side when Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka
Abdul-Salam Bilal on 14 March 1979) is a French international footballer, who plays as a striker for English Premier League club Chelsea. Anelka was also a regular starter for the French national team...

 stepped up to take a shot in the penalty shoot out. This was because all of Chelsea's penalties went to the left. Anelka's shot instead went to Van der Sar's right, which was saved.
Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar used a famous method of distracting the players called the "spaghetti legs" trick to help his club defeat AS Roma to win the 1984 European Cup.

An illegal method of saving penalties is for the goalkeeper to make a quick and short jump forward just before the penalty taker connects with the ball. This not only shuts down the angle of the shot, but also distracts the penalty taker. The method was used by Brazilian goalkeeper Taffarel. FIFA was less strict on the rule during that time. In more recent times, FIFA has advised all referees to strictly obey the rule book.

Similarly, a goalkeeper may also attempt to delay a penalty by cleaning his boots, asking the referee to see if the ball is placed properly and other delaying tactics. This method builds more pressure on the penalty taker, but the goalkeeper may risk punishments, most likely a yellow card.

Even if the keeper does manage to block the shot, the ball may rebound back to the shooter or one of his teammates for another shot, with the keeper often in poor position to make a second save. This makes saving penalty kicks astonishingly difficult. If the keeper has managed to block the penalty, it will very often rebound to an area near to the penalty taker, who will have an easier shot than the penalty itself (because they are most likely closer to the goal, and the goalkeeper is most likely in a position where he will not be able to make another save). This is not a concern in penalty shoot-outs, where just a single shot is permitted.

These factors would give one the impression that penalty kicks are scored almost 100% of the time. However, missed penalty kicks are not uncommon despite the simple circumstances. For instance, of 78 penalty kicks taken during FA Premier League 2005-06
FA Premier League 2005-06
The 2005–06 season of the FA Premier League began on 13 August 2005, and concluded on 7 May 2006. The season saw Chelsea F.C retain their title after defeating Manchester United 3–0 at Stamford Bridge towards the end of April...

 season, 57 resulted in a goal, meaning almost 30% of the penalties were unsuccessful.

A German professor who has been studying penalty statistics in the German Bundesliga
The Fußball-Bundesliga is a professional association football league in Germany. At the top of Germany's football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. It is contested by 18 teams and operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the 2. Bundesliga...

 for 16 years found that 76% of all the penalties during those 16 years went in, and 99% of the shots in the higher half of the goal went in, although the higher half of the goal is generally a more risky target to aim at. During his career Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio is a retired Italian footballer. Widely regarded as one of the finest footballers of his generation, Baggio won both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups. He is also one of the top 5 all-time...

 had two occurrences where his shot hit the upper bar, bounced downwards, rebounded off the keeper and passed the goal line for a goal.


A penalty can also be mistakenly awarded by the referee where a foul is committed outside the area and the referee makes an error of judgement, or inside the area, where the offensive player manages to trick the referee into thinking the offence occurred where in fact there was none. The referee's decision is final according to the laws of the game and so the result cannot be overturned at a later time. Some players practise different ways to gain competitive advantage as a result of this rule, leading to much controversy.


The early origin of the penalty kick probably lies in Rugby football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

, as shown in early match reports, for example in 1888: "Dewsbury was awarded a penalty kick in front of the goal" The concept of a penalty goal for fouls within 2 yards (1.8 m) of the goal was suggested at a Sheffield FA meeting in 1879. The invention of the penalty kick is also credited to the goalkeeper and businessman William McCrum
William McCrum
William McCrum was a wealthy Irish linen manufacturer and sportsman, most famous for being the inventor in 1890 of the penalty kick in football.-Life and family:...

 in 1890 in Milford, County Armagh
Milford, County Armagh
Milford or Millford is a small village about one mile southwest of Armagh in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It is within the Armagh City and District Council area and had a population of 301 in the 2001 Census.- Name :...

, Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. The Irish Football Association
Irish Football Association
The Irish Football Association is the organising body for association football in Northern Ireland, and was historically the governing body for Ireland...

 presented the idea to the International Football Association Board
International Football Association Board
The International Football Association Board is the body that determines the Laws of the Game of association football.-Operations:...

 and finally after much debate, and after a blatant goal-line handball by a Notts County
Notts County F.C.
Notts County Football Club are an English professional football club based in Nottingham. They are the oldest of all the clubs in the world that are now professional, having been formed in 1862. They currently play in League One of The Football League, the third tier of the English football system...

 player in the FA Cup
FA Cup
The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup, is a knockout cup competition in English football and is the oldest association football competition in the world. The "FA Cup" is run by and named after The Football Association and usually refers to the English men's...

 Quarter-Final against Stoke
Stoke City F.C.
Stoke City Football Club is an English professional football club based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire that plays in the Premier League. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest club in the Premier League, and considered to be the second oldest professional football club in the world, after Notts...

 the board approved the idea on 2 June 1891. A similar incident in Scotland in a match between Airdrieonians and Heart of Midlothian also contributed to the call for the penalty kick, which came into effect in the 1891-92 season. The first ever penalty kick was awarded to Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.
Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club is an English professional association football club that represents the city of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands region. They are members of the Premier League, the highest level of English football. The club was founded in 1877 and since 1889 has played at...

 in their game against Accrington
Accrington F.C.
Accrington Football Club were an English football club from Accrington, Lancashire, who were one of the founder members of The Football League. Accrington F.C. was formed following a meeting at a local public house in 1876...

 at Molineux Stadium
Molineux stadium
Molineux Stadium is a Premier League football stadium situated in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, England. It has been the home ground of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club since 1889, and has a long and illustrious history as the first 'new build' stadium in Football League history, one of the...

on 14 September 1891. The penalty was taken and scored by 'Billy' Heath as Wolves went on to win the game 5-0.

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