Euro 2020: penalty shootouts can be won or lost on a coin toss

June 25, 2021

The online portal The Conversation reports on a recent study, conducted by Matthias Sutter and his co-authors asking whether it is the right to determine the sequence of moves in a penalty shootout rather than the actual sequence of moves that matters in order to win.

Surprisingly perhaps, it turned out that choosing to go first is not a decidedly dominant option. They observed that only about 56% of all captains decided to kick first, while the remaining 44% sent their keeper into the goal first, hoping for an early save, perhaps believing in a “second-mover advantage”.

They also found that the team whose captain won the coin toss went on to win roughly 60% of the subsequent shootouts. This is significantly better than the 50% chance you might expect if the captains’ decisions made no difference.

So the order of penalties does not matter – but the right to determine the sequence does.

So if shootouts become a feature of Euro 2020 keep an eye out for that coin toss. The fate of both sides could depend on it.

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