The 411 on World Cup shootouts 

July, 2, 2010

Today's winners in Stats & Analytics:

Germany, goalies who stay put

Today's losers:

Uruguay, Paraguay

Remember how the last World Cup ended? After surviving Zinedine Zidane's insane headbutt and playing to a 1-1 draw in regulation, Italy beat France on penalty kicks. Neither the Italians nor the French made it to this year's quarterfinals, but penalty shootouts are still around. Personally, I consider them a silly way to end tied championship games, because the ability to beat a goalie from 12 yards away is just a tiny piece of overall soccer skill. But penalty kicks are exciting. More important, there are big differences in how well teams execute them -- differences that one day soon could become even more pronounced as goaltenders, aided by new research, are trained to detect kicker "tells."

Peter Keating

ESPN Senior Writer
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. His column, The Numbers, appears in every issue.