Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dominant strategy for strikers - shoot to the center?

I had blogged earlier that despite the dominant strategy for football goalkeepers facing a penalty strike was to stay at the center, keepers preferred to dive randomly to the right or left since they feel greater regret at letting a goal in after standing still in the centre compared with jumping either side.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner examined the same psychology from the perspective of the penalty strikers and found that they "are generally reluctant to aim penalty kicks at the center of the goal even though the data show that is the most effective spot". And their explanation is on similar lines,

"He may think that if he kicks down the centre and the keeper does manage to stop it, the kicker will look like an utter fool... A penalty kick down the middle has the same private benefit as a goal to the left or the right, but a miss down the middle has a greater private penalty: it may well define a player’s career. And so he acts according to his own private benefit, not the greater good, and fires away to the left or the right. If he misses there, the moment will be remembered more for the keeper’s competence than the kicker’s ignominy."

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