Penalty shootouts to get the ABBA treatment this month

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UEFA is trying something new when it comes to penalty shootouts.

The governing body will try the ‘ABBA’ sequence of shooters at the UEFA U-17 women’s tournament this week in the Czech republic.

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What that means is that instead of teams alternating shooters A-B, A-B, A-B, the team that shoots second will take its first two kicks, followed by the first team then shooting twice. Hence:

Round 1: A-B
Round 2: B-A
Round 3: A-B
Round 4: B-A
Round 5: A-B (and so on).

The perceived advantage to teams shooting first is real. According to Ben Lyttleton’s exhaustive book on penalty kicks, “Twelve Yards”, the team kicking first wins between 56-63 percent of the time.

That 56 percent figure is in the Europa League and the 63 is in the Champions League, with the World Cup, domestic cups, and international competitions also in the mix.

According to UEFA:

The trial has been sanctioned by football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), as part of its ‘play fair’ initiative, and UEFA has agreed to take part. The experiment is looking at whether the advantage for the team taking the first penalty in a pair of spot kicks in a shoot-out could be reduced.

Judging by the “Twelve Yards” figures, it should be reduced significantly over time. But it will take time to accumulate a good sample size, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect major changes to bigger tournaments any time soon.