The Unsaveable Zone

In June 2014 The Daily Mail published this article.

Research England footballers won’t need this time

The perfect penalty can be taken by aiming at the ‘unsaveable’ zone

Researcher analysed hours of footage to determine a goalkeeper’s reach

  • Aiming outside the ‘unsaveable zone’ will achieve a goal 8 out of 10 times
  • A third of matches after the knock-out stages will be decided by penalties
  • England has had a measly 17 per cent success rate in penalty shootouts
  • Germany has an 80 per cent success rate, according to Bath University

A football researcher claims to have identified an ‘unsaveable zone’ in the goal area, which could boost players’ chances of scoring in the World Cup penalty shoot-outs.

Dr Ken Bray has analysed hours of footage to determine the reach of a goalkeeper when attempting a save, known as a diving envelope.

He believes players who aim outside the diving envelope – the ‘unsaveable zone’ – have more than an 80% chance of success at scoring during a shoot-out.


Statistics from previous competitions suggest that around a third of matches from the knock-out stages – starting this weekend with host Brazil playing Chile – will be decided by a shoot-out.

Dr Bray, of the University of Bath, claims good physical and mental preparation could ‘dramatically improve’ the chances of the remaining 16 teams.

‘Success in the shoot-out is something that teams can improve. From my research I’ve shown that there are really three key points to take the perfect penalty,’ Dr Bray said.

  1. ‘Coaches must choose from the best available group of players when the shoot-out comes around.
  2. Players must ensure they use good placement technique.
  3. Teams need to work on players’ mental preparation for penalties.’

Dr Bray’s research, based on statistics from previous competitions, shows that for some teams left in the World Cup, such as Germany, success in shoot-outs seems to come naturally.

Germany-v-ItalyGermany has won about 80 per cent of their penalty encounters, while England has been successful in just 17 per cent of theirs.


Perfect penaltyDr Bray said his research to identify the ‘unsaveable zone’ could help teams left in the World Cup who are less talented at shoot-outs, such as the Netherlands – who have won 20per cent of penalties shootouts.

‘Our research at Bath shows that goalies have only a finite reach when attempting a save,’ Dr Bray said.

‘We call this reach the ‘diving envelope’. Strikers can place the ball close to the diving envelope, or even a little inside, with reasonable chances of successes.

‘We call the area outside the diving envelope the unsaveable zone. Our research shows that just over 80 per cent of shots, around four out of five, played into this area succeed.’


In a video named How To Take The Perfect Penalty, Dr Bray argues that coaches must be in charge of selecting players for the shoot-out, instead of waiting for the players to decide between them.


The researcher, author of How To Score: Science and The Beautiful Game, also prescribes techniques such as mental imaging for dealing with stress, with players visualising a perfectly placed shot in the ‘unsaveable’ zone.

This blogpost came  from an article published in the Daily Mail. The article can be found here.


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