soccer goal keeper standing on the line awaiting a PK

What Are the Odds of a Goal Keeper Saving a Penalty Kick?

All eyes are on you. Your center back just made an incredibly clumsy tackle inside the box and now the opposing team’s leading scorer is lining up for a penalty kick. In a sport in which scoring goals is so difficult, a penalty is the best chance any soccer team has to record a goal. But you’re the goalie, and you’re going to stop that from happening. Or are you?

On the surface, it sounds incredibly difficult to save a penalty. The other team has a free kick from 12 yards away – no defenders, just a goal keeper. All they have to do is put the ball in a 24-foot wide goal without the keeper getting to the ball first. With a professional soccer player being able to strike a ball up to 80 MPH, that gives the keeper only 0.2 seconds to determine where the ball is going and dive in the way of it. That’s tough.

How often do goal keepers save penalty kicks?

Let’s start by looking at the data from the world’s most popular professional soccer league – the English Premiere League. According to their official stats over the past 10 seasons, there have been 965 penalties awarded and 168 of them have been saved. This means that the chances of a goal keeper saving a penalty kick are about 17.4% (or 1 in every 5.7 penalties is saved).

Is that more common than you expected? Yeah, me too. But let’s think about how this is possible.

Since a goal keeper has 0.2 seconds to make a save before the ball crosses the line on a penalty, they cannot anticipate and react like they would for a normal shot. Instead, they just have to guess. Since a keeper has 24 feet to guard, to defend a penalty they stand in the middle of the goal, giving 12 feet to their left and 12 feet to their right. This leave them with three options: dive left, dive right, or stay central. Then they have to hope the shooter chooses the same direction.

So, if there are only three options for a penalty, that means the keeper has a 33.3% chance of guessing correctly. The fact that professionals only make saves at a 17.4% rate means that even when the keeper guesses correctly, there’s still only a 52.2% chance they make the save. When guessing correctly means launching yourself horizontally in the air and with a ball traveling 80 MPH, you still need have the reactions and strength to get in the way and make the save.

What are the odds of scoring a penalty in soccer?

So if the chances of a keeper saving a penalty are 17.4%, that means shooters score at a 82.6% rate, right? Wrong. Sometimes, players try so hard to get the shot perfect that the end up missing the goal entirely. In fact, the chance that a player misses the goal entirely on a penalty kick is about 6.1% (or about 1 in 16 attempt). This means that PK’s are only scored 76.5% of the time in the Premiere League.

Now, what about after long, exhausting matches that end in a draw. It’s time for a shoot out.

What are the chances of scoring 5 goals in a penalty shootout in soccer?

We’ve seen it happen time and time again. In tournament play, when there has to be a declared winner, games will go to a penalty kicks to decide it. Each team gets five tries from the spot, and whoever scores the most, wins.

So, if the odds of scoring on a penalty kick are 76.5%, that means that the chances of scoring five consecutive penalties after extra time are 26.2%.

Probability of Goals Scored in PK Shootout
0 Goals Scored 0.07% Chance
1 Goal Scored 1.17% Chance
2 Goals Scored 7.61% Chance
3 Goals Scored 24.75% Chance
4 Goals Scored 40.23% Chance
5 Goals Scored 26.16 Chance

So, next time your team gives up a PK, don’t be too tough on they keeper. The odds are not in his favor.

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