5 Reasons Why Footballers MISS Penalties

It’s not out of place for a footballer to miss a penalty. In fact, some of them suffer abuses, including racial abuses, as seen when Bukayo Saka missed the crucial penalty that allowed England to lose the EURO 2020 final to Italy.

To the layman or outsider, taking a penalty is one of the most straightforward tasks a footballer can handle. However, to the professional footballer, it is a different story. Gareth Southgate, John Terry, Jorginho, and Marcus Rashford would certainly agree with this line of thought, as they’ve all missed a crucial spot kick at a point in their careers.

If you’ve wondered why footballers miss penalties, we will be revealing several reasons why footballers may miss a penalty. 

Why do footballers miss penalties? 

In professional football, penalties have often been described as a lottery. Players stand twelve yards from the goal line to try and beat a stationary goalkeeper but often fall short. Despite spending their entire lives kicking the ball, players often fail to score penalties, especially the crucial ones. 

The reasons for this failure are usually complicated to discern. Some of these reasons are explained below:

Role of the goalkeeper

The goalkeeper plays a massive role in the process of taking penalties. Usually, the expectation is that the player scores, but goalkeepers often prevent this from happening. A goalkeeper may come up with a save, preventing the ball from crossing the goal line. In the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech saved an Arjen Robben penalty in extra time. The goalkeeper proceeded to make another save in the shootout. His experience with penalties caused him to guess the directions of the kicks and save them. 

Similarly, a goalkeeper may play a different role to help him overcome the penalty taker. This role involves getting into the head of the taker as he prepares to take the penalty. A master of this art is the current Aston Villa and Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. He influences how his opponents take penalty kicks by doing little things, such as refusing to release the ball early or talking to the player. This worked for him in shootouts for Argentina at the 2021 Copa America and 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

You can find out why a goalkeeper dives the wrong way here.


It is believed that the walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot is one of the loneliest moments in a footballer’s career as revealed by former Republic of Ireland star Andy Townsend. At this moment, the player has the attention of all the fans watching the match. This sometimes causes the players to crack under pressure and miss their penalty kicks. 

An excellent example of this situation was the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-final between Ghana and Uruguay. With the scores level, the Black Stars were awarded a penalty deep into extra time after that infamous Luis Suarez moment. With the hopes of an entire continent on his shoulders, the usually reliable Asamoah Gyan struck the crossbar with his effort. They went on to lose on penalty shootouts. 

Similarly, when a player faces a former teammate in goal for a penalty, they may feel an increased pressure. This is usually true when the pair have practised penalties together in the past. 

In the 2017 Community Shield between Chelsea and Arsenal, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was to shoot a penalty. Standing between him and the goal was his former teammate Petr Cech. The Belgian goalkeeper deviated from his routine penalty-taking method and ended up blazing the effort over the bar. 

Technical errors

Many players use a particular technique when they have to take penalties. For some, they prefer a stuttered run-up, while others prefer to blast the ball past the goalkeeper. Some other players look for more subtle ways to send the ball into the back of the net. There may, however, be occasions where their techniques fail them, causing them to miss their penalty. 

Arsenal’s Jorginho has a hop-step-jump routine before kicking the ball. In his time as a Chelsea player, he used the same routine against West Ham United in 2021-22 in a 1-0 win. West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski remained unfazed to make a very simple save. His run-up failed to achieve its desired effect. 

Similarly, Sergio Aguero botched a Panenka attempt against Chelsea in 2021. This was another example of how technical errors may cause players to miss penalties. 

Lack of required skill

Although they train to kick a ball daily, footballers need specific skills to score penalties. Skills such as accurate ball-striking, shooting technique and shot power make scoring easier from the spot. For players lacking in any of these departments, there is an increased likelihood of missing penalties when they take them. 

Pitch surface issues

A pitch’s surface often influences a penalty taker’s ability to score from the spot. If a pitch is too wet or too dry, it may affect the player and cause them to slip as they take the penalty. On a rainy night in Moscow, John Terry slipped as he took a penalty which could have won Chelsea the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final. As a result of his slip, his effort went wide off the target. 

Similarly, after a player stamped around the penalty spot, Ghana’s Andre Ayew missed a penalty against Uruguay at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This caused the surface to lose its uniformity, and the player missed the penalty. 

Other factors, such as faulty strategies and fatigue, may contribute to a player missing a penalty. A combination of these factors often causes players to miss penalties, which may be costly to their teams. 


The pressure that comes with taking a penalty is sometimes very high in certain circumstances. This makes it such that more than skill alone is needed for players to score penalties, and as a result, even the best players may miss penalties. 

Many factors contribute to players missing a penalty, and none of them is as important as the ability to handle pressure. The ability of a player to maintain a calm and composed outlook and remain focused is vital to scoring a penalty. Players must have the requisite mental and technical profiles before taking penalties, and this helps to reduce the chances of them missing them.

You can find out more about penalty shootouts here.

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