Penalty Kick in Football: All Details You May Not Know

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Penalty kick in football: Penalty shootouts are some of the most nerve-wracking and stressful situations – for both players partaking and the viewers. The teams take alternate kicks until one team has scored more goals than their opponents. The team with the most goals at the end of the penalty shootout is the winner of the game.

As with any activity, the sport of soccer requires the players to follow specific rules and procedures when taking part in a penalty shootout. But how do penalty shootouts work, and what are the rules? Goal takes a look.

What is a penalty kick?

Penalty kicks are direct free kicks taken from a spot 11 meters (12 yards) in front of the center 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”. It is a marked region of the pitch extending 16.5 meters (18 yards) out from each goalpost and 16.5 meters in depth.

According to Law 14 of the International Football Association Board Laws of the Game, a penalty kick in football is a scoring opportunity. It is given to a team adjudged to have been on the receiving end of a direct free-kick offense inside the opposition’s penalty area or off the field as part of the play. The attacker obviously holds a deliberate advantage. Because the keeper does not know where he will shoot the ball until he takes his shot.

How do teams get to the penalty shootout?

In the event that the scoreline after 90 minutes of regular play is still even, the match will continue with two 15-minute periods of extra time in order to determine a winner. Teams are granted one additional substitution during extra time.

During the 30 minutes of extra time, teams will play with nervous, restless energy if they want to find a match-winner. Or they will slow and lethargic if they want to take it to a shootout.

It is not unusual for extra time to finish with the score still even or the same from the end of the 90 minutes. It sends both teams to the penalty shootout high on nerves. And the team’s fatigue and exhaustion only added to the schadenfreude of the shootout melodrama.

At the end of a penalty shootout, the scores are still tied. Then the two teams continue taking alternate penalty kicks until one team has scored more goals than the other.

A penalty kick in football is used as the last resort for determining the outcome of a game when the scores are tied.

For many soccer games, it doesn’t matter if the game ends in a tie. When this happens, the league will award both teams one point each, and the players will switch their focus to their next game.

But in specific soccer tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, the Copa America, or the MLS Playoffs, it’s not enough for a game to finish as a tie.

One team has to be the winner! This is why soccer began using penalty shootouts as a tie-breaker.

How Does a Penalty Kick in Football Work?

Once the referee has signaled a penalty shootout will take place, there are a number of rules and procedures that the two teams must follow throughout the shootout.

Let’s go through them now so you understand what the players can and can’t do.

A penalty shootout works by each team selecting five players to take a series of penalty kicks at a goal. The defending goalkeeper is the only player permitted to be between the ball and the goal. After each player has taken a penalty kick, the team with the most goals is the winner of the game.

The rules for a penalty shootout are as follows:

  • Each coach chooses five players to take a penalty kick
  • The referee tosses a coin to decide where the players will take the kicks and who goes first
  • The teams take alternate penalty kicks. Each player takes a turn
  • The referee keeps track of the goals scored and declares the winner
  • Have a look at this video below to see some of the most dramatic penalty shootouts in recent history.

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. They stand behind the spot and a minimum of 9.15 meters (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.

Player’s Positions During a Penalty Shootout

During the penalty kick in football, the position of all the players is important.

Except for the player taking the kick and the two goalies, all players must remain in the center circle of the soccer pitch. When it’s a player’s turn to take a kick, they can walk up to the penalty mark. However, after their kick, they must head straight back to the middle of the field.

The goalkeepers remain in a different part of the field from the rest of their team.

When a goalie is defending a penalty, they must remain on the goal line, between the goalposts, until the kick is taken. This is the same for a goalie at any penalty kick throughout a game.

But when a goalkeeper steps aside for their opposite number to defend a kick, they don’t head back to the center circle to join the rest of their team.

The goalkeeper of the kicker must stay on the goal line, but just outside the penalty area. They must remain on the field of play at the point where the line of the penalty area meets the goal line.

Remaining in this position ensures the goalie is far enough away that they do not cause a distraction to the defending goalkeeper. However, they are near enough to the goal not to cause a delay between kicks.

Why do teams have their best player take the fifth penalty in shootouts?

In a penalty shootout, each team has five shots. And the team that makes more successful kicks is declared the victor.

The fifth penalty is usually seen as the most important one, as it can be the most decisive. If the scores are even by the fifth round, and then the opposition team misses their fifth penalty. Then the other team can win the shootout by scoring in a 5-4 win.

There is an intense amount of pressure that comes along with scoring it. Because the fifth penalty can be the deciding factor. This is why a team’s best player – or go-to penalty-taker – is often saved for this occasion, instead of being scheduled to score early on in the shootout. They would ideally be the most equipped, mentally, to take on such a task, with the best chance of success.

Of course, this tactic has the ability to backfire, especially if a team doesn’t even end up making it to the fifth round due to penalties being missed.

Taking the Kick

During a penalty shootout, the kicks are taken alternately by each team. A different player must take every kick.

The only time a player can take a second penalty kick is if every other player on a team has taken a kick and the scores are still tied. At this point, each team rotates through all their players again.

Seeing a player taking a second penalty kick at a penalty shootout doesn’t often happen. Most penalty shootouts are decided after the first five kicks by each team. Still, occasionally you will see a longer penalty shootout. Though not as long as the 48 kicks taken in 2005.

The longest penalty shootout ever was between KK Palace and the Civics. And it finished with KK Palace winning 17-16 after 48 penalty kicks. This penalty shootout took place at the end of the final of the 2005 Namibian Cup after the game finished with a 2-2 draw.

When taking the penalties, each team follows the same rules in place for any penalty kick during a soccer game.

The main variation on these rules is that once the kicker has kicked the ball, they may not play the ball a second time even if the goalie saves the shot and the ball rebounds to them.

Once the ball is off the field, in the goal, or has stopped moving, the kick is complete.

What happens if penalty rules are broken?

Depending on the foul and outcome, the following may apply



Football is a game with many rules. This is particularly evident in the case of penalties.

Various situations can lead to penalty kicks being awarded in a football match. The penalty kick in football is awarded in the event of a player touching and gaining control of the football via their hands or part of their arms.

So there you have it – your guide to penalty shootouts in soccer. If you want to understand more about how soccer works, visit FootballTerms.

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