Goalkeepers are LESS likely to save a free kick if they have a ‘wall’ in front of them, scientists reveal
- A wall, on average, blocks the line of sight of a goalkeeper for around 200ms
- It also leads to a delay in them moving of up to 90 milliseconds
- Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast found this equates to a wall lowering the likelihood of saving a free kick by 13%
A goalkeeper is less likely to save a free kick if there is a wall of players in the way, according to new research.
The ten-yard side-by-side barrier is in place to make it harder for the free kick taker to score a goal, but this technique has now been called into question.
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast found the wall gets in the way of the goalkeeper’s eyesight and slows their reaction time.
The goalkeeper’s sight is blocked for around 200 milliseconds and their reaction time is up to 90 milliseconds slower than when there is no wall.
As a result the researchers calculate that with a wall in place the ‘keeper is 13 per cent less likely to make a successful save.
The ten-yard side-by-side barrier is in place to make it harder for the free kick taker to score a goal, but this technique has now been called into question by scientists
And it applies to all types of free kicks ranging from the pile drivers of Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo to those who prefer to bend it – like David Beckham.
Co-author Professor Cathy Craig said: ‘In a nutshell, placing a defensive wall could actually result in the goalkeeper conceding more goals.’
The results published in PLOS ONE are based on virtual reality experiments involving 25 participants in their 20s and 30s – ten of whom were skilled goalkeepers.
The phenomenon applied to both groups – including those who had only ever played in outfield positions.
Co-author Dr Joost Dessing explained: ‘While the defensive wall strategy is effective in some cases, the wall frequently obstructs the goalkeeper’s initial view of the moving ball.
‘Although the negative effects of this obstruction have been assumed by experts, they have not been scientifically quantified until now.
‘Our study shows when the view of the ball is initially obstructed, goalkeepers wait longer before starting to move, which leaves them less time to make that all important save.’
The study found the location of the free kick also plays a role, with free kicks taken from a central position posing the biggest threat to goalkeepers if they use a wall.
The laws of the game require all defenders to be at least 10 yards from the ball on a free kick.
The idea of using a wall placed the minimum distance away is to reduce the amount of available goal at which the shooter can aim.
But critics claim obstructing the goalkeeper’s view in this way does more harm than good.
Professor Craig said: ‘As with many sports, goal keeping success is determined by the ability to get to the right place, at the right time to pull off a save.
‘Although goalkeepers might claim to ‘see’ the ball through the wall of players before it is kicked, they will most likely not see how that initial part of the ball trajectory unfolds just after it has been kicked.
‘It’s that important information the brain needs to make a decision about where the ball is going and when it will get there.’
How to score the perfect penalty EVERY time, according to scientists
They think it’s all over, and it may well be now as scientists have found the best way for football players to train in order to take the perfect penalty.
According to the latest findings, waiting until the goalkeeper starts to move and aiming into the opposite corner is a skill that can be improved with training.
While the tried-and-tested Alan Shearer technique of shooting the ball into the top corner might work for some, scientists claim strikers can train themselves to be better at outwitting the goalie.
Simple methods can be used to shorten a footballers’ decision-making process and allow them to focus more on shot accuracy, researchers say.
The University of Portsmouth delved into the mechanics of penalty taking ahead of of the kick-off of the Premier League, which will see previous champions Manchester United and Leicester City take to the turf at Old Trafford.
The latest research, which was led by Dr Martina Navarro, a lecturer in sport and exercise science, could lend a helping hand to penalty takers.
Dr Navarro said: ‘A successful penalty kick requires that the penalty taker produces an accurate, well-controlled kicking action and at the same time watches the goalkeeper and makes a decision to which side to kick the ball.
‘In other words, it is a defining feature of the goalkeeper-dependent strategy that a conscious decision is made while kicking.
‘This makes the goalkeeper-dependent strategy essentially a dual task.’
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