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Goalkeepers deceive themselves when facing penalty kicks

Soccer’s netminders fall victim to fallacy during high-pressure situation

12:31pm, July 31, 2014

GOALIE GUESSWORK  During penalty kick shootouts, goalkeepers suffer a logical glitch that often leads them to dive away from the ball.

Soccer goalkeepers routinely dive the wrong way because their minds presume trends that don’t exist, University College London scientists report July 31 in Current Biology.

During penalty kick shootouts, each team has five chances to score from 12 yards away from the goal with only the goalie protecting the net. Professional penalty kicks travel up to 80 miles per hour, giving goalkeepers less than half a second to react.

To make saves, many goalkeepers begin diving before the ball is hit, says coauthor Erman Misirlisoy, a cognitive neuroscientist.

But their guesswork might be flawed, Misirlisoy and cognitive neuroscientist Patrick Haggard  found after watching videos of 361 penalty kicks from the last 36 years of the World Cup and the European Cup. When multiple kickers in a row shot toward the same side, goalkeepers often dove in the opposite direction

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