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Should players be substituted on for penalties? Here’s what the numbers say

The European Championships were mostly positive for the England national team.

They reached a final for only the second time in their history and lost in a penalty shoot-out to an Italy side who are currently in the midst of the longest unbeaten run in the history of international football.

However, this hasn’t silenced the critics of manager Gareth Southgate. Many believe that he made a mistake with his choice of penalty takers.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were both substituted on in the 120th minute, and both ended up missing their spot-kicks.

Was this the moment that cost England the Euro 2020 trophy?

This sparked a debate: should players be brought on JUST to take a penalty? Are their chances hindered without a proper warm-up? Will their heads be in the right place?

Are they under too much pressure? Is it too simplistic to think a professional footballer can score from 12 yards without having a little kickabout beforehand?

This weekend, that debate popped up again when West Ham United were awarded an injury-time penalty against Manchester United at the London Stadium.

Declan Rice had the ball in his hands, ready to take, but David Moyes decided to substitute Mark Noble onto the pitch for the dying seconds, solely to hit the penalty.

Noble is an experienced penalty taker with one of the best records in Premier League history. Up against him was David de Gea – a goalkeeper with a notoriously poor penalty-saving record.

So when the Spaniard got a hand to it to keep it out, many people questioned whether Noble should have taken it without a warm-up.

So – point proven, right? Three players have taken a ‘cold’ penalty at crucial times, and all missed. Surely it’s a bad idea?

But is this just confirmation bias? Or is this a rule that managers ought to follow? Are Southgate and Moyes amateurs for choosing to ignore this advice?

You may disagree with their decisions, but it’s a rule that even the very best have dismissed at times. Sir Alex Ferguson did in the 2008 Champions League final – thankfully for him, Anderson dispatched his penalty, despite coming on with only seconds to go.

Thankfully, one writer with far too much time on his hands has done a bit of research and worked out some statistics.

The research takes into account penalty shootouts from 20 competitions: World Cup, European Championships, Champions League, Europa League, Africa Cup of Nations, Copa America, FA Cup, English League Cup, English Football League Play-Offs, DFB Pokal, Copa del Rey, Coupe de France, Coppa Italia, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Community Shield, Supercopa de Espana, Supercoppa Italiana, DFB Super Cup, Trophee des Champions.

For most of these, the data is taken from the year 2000 onwards. This is correct in all cases except for the Copa del Rey (2008 onwards + finals), DFB Pokal (2009 onwards + finals), Coppa Italia (2013 onwards + finals), and the Coupe de France (Only finals + 2020/21 season).

We have looked at every player to be substituted on with fewer than five minutes remaining. This is from the 116th minute onwards or the 86th minute in ties without extra time. Anyway, without any further ado, here are the results.

From 111 ‘cold’ penalties, 79 were scored and 32 were missed. This comes out at a conversion rate of just over 71%.

According to TheStatsZone, just under 75% of penalties are scored in total. So, according to the data, a ‘cold’ penalty is more likely to be missed.

But the difference is minimal. If just four more ‘cold’ penalties had been converted, it would have matched the average. With a slightly bigger sample size, it may have reached the average.

But again, that would maybe be a rather simplistic inference. When a player is substituted on for a penalty, it’s usually because they are a specialist. They’re supposed to exceed the average.

In addition, is it fair to put the same value on a penalty in a major final compared to a penalty in the first round of the Carabao Cup? That’s up for debate.

So what’s the conclusion? Does a player need to have played at least five minutes before taking a penalty?

There isn’t a conclusion, really. The drop in success rate may just be a coincidence, or it may be one of those fine margins in football that ultimately costs you.

Anyway, here is the data. Make of it what you will.


Dani Raba (UEL final 2021)

Juan Mata (UEL final 2021)

Alex Telles (UEL final 2021)

Thomas Gravesen (UEL R16 2008)

Didier Angan (UEFA Cup second round 2002)

Miguel Borja (Copa America QF 2021)

Cristhian Stuani (Copa America QF 2019)

Ezequiel Lavezzi (Copa America QF 2015)

Lumar Agbenyenu (AFCON R16 2019)

Andy Delort (AFCON QF 2019)

Salomon Kalou (AFCON final 2015)

Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (AFCON final 2015)

Vincenzo Montella (UCL R16 2009)

Anderson (UCL final 2008)

Juliano Belletti (UCL final 2008)

Gareth Evans (League One PO SF 2020)

John Mousinho (League One PO SF 2020)

Ben Woodburn (League One PO SF 2020)

Mile Jedinak (Championship PO SF 2019)

Scott Arfield (League One PO final 2012)

Chris Dagnall (League One PO SF 2005)

Neil MacKenzie (League Two PO SF 2004)

Martin Reeves (League Two PO SF 2004)

Jacob Mellis (FA Cup third round 2016)

Leon Clarke (FA Cup third round 2015)

Scott Stamps (FA Cup third round 2006)

Darryn Stamp (FA Cup third round 2001)

Gordon Armstrong (FA Cup third round 2001)

Steve Corica (FA Cup fourth round 2000)

Danel Sinani (EFL Cup first round 2021)

Graeme Shinnie (EFL Cup first round 2021)

Jack Powell (EFL Cup first round 2021)

Frazer Blake-Tracy (EFL Cup first round 2021)

John Mousinho (EFL Cup first round 2021)

Charlie Austin (EFL Cup third round 2020)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (EFL Cup fourth round 2020)

Mickey Demetriou (EFL Cup first round 2019)

Paris Cowan-Hall (EFL Cup second round 2019)

Mark Duffy (EFL Cup second round 2019)

Harry Cardwell (EFL Cup second round 2019)

Ashley Nathaniel-George (EFL Cup third round 2019)

John Mousinho (EFL Cup fourth round 2019)

Lewis Reilly (EFL Cup first round 2018)

Tyrone Marsh (EFL Cup first round 2018)

Clinton Morrison (EFL Cup first round 2007)

Lee Miller (EFL Cup second round 2004)

Dean West (EFL Cup first round 2003)

Eoin Jess (EFL Cup second round 2003)

Ian Herring (EFL Cup second round 2003)

John Spicer (EFL Cup third round 2003)

Paul Powell (EFL Cup second round 2002)

Andy Martin (EFL Cup fourth round 2000)

Diego Mendoza (Copa del Rey second round 2020)

Javi Lopez (Copa del Rey first round 2013)

Mario Perez (Copa del Rey third round 2013)

Alan Baro (Copa del Rey first round 2011)

Sami Allagui (DFB Pokal R16 2017)

Zsolt Kalmar (DFB Pokal first round 2016)

Marco Lorenz (DFB Pokal second round 2014)

Elton da Costa (DFB Pokal first round 2013)

Adam Matuszczyk (DFB Pokal second round 2012)

Oguzhan Kefkir (DFB Pokal first round 2011)

Florian Krebs (DFB Pokal second round 2011)

Ioannas Amanatidis (DFB Pokal R16 2010)

Neymar (Coupe de France SF 2021)

Mathieu Guillaud (Coupe de France R32 2021)

Ousman Diaby (Coupe de France R32 2021)

Quentin Bacha (Coupe de France R32 2021)

Phil Foden (Community Shield 2019)

Maximilian Philipp (DFB Super Cup 2017)

Edu (DFB Super Cup 2011)

Horst Heldt (DFB Ligapokal SF 2005)

Denis Lapaczinski (DFB Ligapokal SF 2004)

Kim Kallstrom (Trophee des Champions 2008)

Senim Benachour (Trophee des Champions 2004)

Ramara Vahirua (Trophee des Champions 2000)

Ross Allen (Club World Cup first round 2018)

Ali Machani (Club World Cup 5th place match 2018)

Taha Yassine Khenissi (Club World Cup 5th place match 2018)

Miguel Angel Ponce (Club World Cup 5th place match 2018)

John Mousinho – the ‘Cold Penalty Pele’, as he will henceforth be known

A special mention must go to John Mousinho, for scoring THREE cold penalties. Nerves of steel, John.


Marcus Rashford (Euro 2020 final)

Jadon Sancho (Euro 2020 final)

Simone Zaza (Euro 2016 QF)

Rodri (Euro 2020 QF)

Goncalo Paciencia (UEL SF 2019)

Danail Bachkov (UEFA Cup second round 2002)

Eric van der Leur (UEFA Cup R16 2002)

Everton Ribiero (Copa America QF 2015)

Tallo Gadji (AFCON final 2015)

Frank Acheampong (AFCON final 2015)

Luciano Narsingh (UCL R16 2016)

Geremi (UCL SF 2007)

Jamie Carragher (WC QF 2006)

Andy Taylor (League One PO final 2012)

Shaquille Coulthirst (FA Cup first round 2020)

Gary Mills (FA Cup first round 2005)

Jordan Jones (EFL Cup second round 2021)

Manolo Gabbiadini (EFL Cup fourth round 2018)

Pablo Mills (EFL Cup second round 2008)

Peter Murphy (EFL Cup first round 2006)

Paul Shaw (EFL Cup third round 2004)

Nick Henry (EFL Cup fourth round 2000)

Giulio Parodi (Coppa Italia R16 2017)

Gokhan Gul (DFB Pokal first round 2019)

Nikola Volic (Coupe de France R32 2021)

Nicolas Poulain (Coupe de France R32 2021)

Christopher Nkunku (Coupe de France final 2019)

Rhian Brewster (Community Shield 2020)

Mathias Abel (DFB Ligapokal SF 2006)

Sylvain Armand (Trophee des Champions 2000)

Jon Bautista (Supercoppa de Espana 2021 SF)

Saad Bguir (Club World Cup 5th place match 2018)

Most data collected from WhoScored and 11v11.

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