Your ultimate guide to World Cup penalty shootouts

Your ultimate guide to World Cup penalty shootouts! England have the joint-WORST record, goalkeepers appear to be getting better at saving them and Spain stopper Unai Simon insists research is key from 12 yards

  • The World Cup gets underway on Sunday afternoon as Qatar play Ecuador
  • There is almost no doubt that penalties will play a pivotal role at some point 
  • Sportsmail is here will all you need to know about shootouts before they do 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Penalties will almost certainly play a part at the World Cup in Qatar, which gets underway on Sunday, and Sportsmail is here to get you prepared for them.

Penalties were first introduced for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina but were not needed until the 1982 tournament in Spain. 

Before that, knockout matches tied after extra-time went to a replay. 

Since then, Germany and Argentina have performed best in shootouts with four wins while England have the joint-worst record with Spain and Italy with three defeats.

Roberto Baggio will forever be remembered for blazing his shootout penalty over the bar in 1994 as Italy lost to Brazil in the USA in the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties

There appears to be no advantage to going first in World Cup shootouts. Teams going first have won exactly 50 per cent of shootouts since the first in 1982. 

And only two of the 30 World Cup shootouts have reached the sudden death stage after being tied at five each. 

Shootouts have decided the tournament twice, in 1994 and 2006 – both involving Italy. 

Only one player has scored the deciding kick twice: Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic in 2018. 


Penalty shoot-outs are like exams, according to Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon. He who revises, fares better, and unlike your maths A-Level you can take a cheat sheet into the test. England take note.

Simon speaks from a position of authority, having saved two Swiss spot-kicks in Spain’s Euro 2020 quarter-final victory last summer and one in their semi-final defeat to Italy.

The Athletic Bilbao star says: ‘I study penalties not just to know where they usually kick, but to know how.’

The logic is that if a kicker looks only at the ball, it is probably best to dive early. Whereas a player who looks at the goalkeeper will see which way you are diving and adjust their kick, so it is best to delay the dive as long as possible.

‘Before I studied penalties,’ says Simon, ‘I was never sure when to commit, when to dive, and I would dive late. Now at least knowing the penalty style I know when I have to dive.’

Simon believes that deciding in advance which side to dive to, while no guarantee of success, does steady a goalkeeper’s nerves before a penalty.

‘Before the kick I know I’m diving to the right and that gives me confidence,’ he says. 

‘I know that if he takes the kick to that side, I will save it. If he doesn’t put it that side, OK, I did all I could do.

‘I get far more annoyed with myself if I guess right but don’t reach the ball.

‘I remember against Italy I was facing Andrea Belotti. I knew he hit it very hard and to which side and I dived early and even then I didn’t get there.’

Simon says no one escapes the pre-match research.

Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon saved two penalties in shoot-out vs Switzerland at Euro 2020

‘Against Switzerland and Italy we had information on all the players,’ he says. ‘With Switzerland we even had info on the goalkeeper Yann Sommer in case he had to take a penalty.’

The research is extensive and there are two very good reasons for writing it all down. Simon tells us that if we give him a list of takers now, he would memorise it in half and hour, but after 120 minutes of football it has to be written down.

And then there is the essential element of bluff. Simon says: ‘The act of looking at my piece of paper makes the player a little nervous, and the piece of paper could be blank. I’ve spoken to forwards who say, “When I see the goalkeeper looking at his cheat sheet he knows where I’m going to put the penalty”.’

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t – it is all part of the game, which, by the way, Simon would change if he could.

‘I would prefer one-on-ones,’ he says. ‘In youth football we did that. The forward had eight seconds to score with five touches. I would prefer almost any other situation but the rule is penalties so we have to work hard at it – and study!’


MOST PENALTIES TAKEN IN SHOOTOUTS: Roberto Baggio (1990, 94, 98). Italy lost all three!

MOST PENALTIES SAVED IN ONE SHOOTOUT: Three: Portugal’s Ricardo v England, 2006 and Danijel Subasic for Croatia v Denmark in 2018.


MOST SHOOTOUT PENALTIES SAVED: Four: Harald Schumacher (Germany); Sergio Goycochea (Argentina); Danijel Subasic (Croatia).

MOST SHOOTOUTS LOST: England, Italy, Spain (three).

MOST SHOOTOUTS WON: Germany and Argentina (four).

MOST SHOOTOUTS IN A TOURNAMENT: Four – 1990, 2006, 2014, 2018.


MOST PLAYED SHOOTOUT: France vs Italy (quarter-final 1998, final 2006)

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