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Soccer Report Extra Podcast


Soccer Report Extra Podcast: Euro 2012 Special – 4

Written by on June 26, 2012 | 27 Comments »
Posted in General, Soccer Report Extra Podcast

This time out, Bobby & Eoin recap the Euro 2012 Quarterfinals, and examine the four semifinalists ahead of the next round. As always, leave your comments below, and enjoy the semis!

27 responses to “Soccer Report Extra Podcast: Euro 2012 Special – 4”

  1. Roberto – I nearly tweeted the Fabregas situation late this afternoon. I had the same thought

  2. Seattle_Loon says:


    I admire your confidence and admire Spain almost as much as you. But wouldn’t you concede there is always a half-decent chance that lady luck smiles on their opponent tomorrow night or Sunday and they lose? It’s a boringly British thing to say but without Puyol they are just a tiny bit vulnerable from corners. (without Puyol I also wonder what the point is of Spain winning corners beyond retaining possession.)

  3. Roberto Senyera says:


    “I admire your confidence and admire Spain almost as much as you. But wouldn’t you concede there is always a half-decent chance that lady luck smiles on their opponent tomorrow night or Sunday and they lose?”

    Thank you. You’re right. Luck is always a factor in any football match. And the closer you get to the end of a competition the margins are less and luck can play an ever increasing part of the entire equation in winning a football match. However, the way Spain retains possession, as both an offensive and defensive tactic, lessens the likelihood as opposed to other teams in similar situations. That being said, it still happens. Look at Barça losing to Chelsea in 2012 & Inter in 2010. No matter how good a team is there are never guarantees — only a balance of probabilities.

    “It’s a boringly British thing to say but without Puyol they are just a tiny bit vulnerable from corners. (without Puyol I also wonder what the point is of Spain winning corners beyond retaining possession.)”

    I’d say the loss of both Puyol & Villa in Euro 2012 is overestimated by most. Sure, Spain would be better with both available. If Puyol were around he would play CB and Ramos could play RB (thereby not needing to use Arbeloa at RB). That being said, Spain still have the two best CBs in this competition in Piqué and Ramos. Spain are most susceptible to be scored upon from a set piece and don’t want to give them away. However, this Spain squad is more adept at defending set pieces than Barça since they have more height and strength in the air (Piqué same, Ramos v Mascherano, Arbeloa v Alves, Busquets same, Alonso v Iniesta) and, it’s blasphemous for me to say it, Casillas is better than Valdes.

    The same should largely hold true on the offensive side of set pieces. Spain will whip more set pieces into the box than Barça (and have) and should have a higher success rate from it. They also have the big Basque option, Llorente, to bring on which Barça does not.

  4. Seattle Loon says:


    The most memorable part of the game. Portugal’s tactics and application working so well that in the first 45 minutes Spain had to resort to England-like hoofing of the ball upfield. They probably made more aimless punts from their own-half in those 45 minutes than they had in all their previous game in these Euro’s and the qualifiers. For that and their performance in the second-half Portugal must take get credit.

    Fair-play to Spain. They have defended so well in this tournament and have almost been perfect.

    As for the penalties. Decided by the woodwork. Another day Fabregas’s shot moves a tiny fraction more and bounces back off the post and out.

  5. Soccernomics pseudo-science – nothing to do with it. Decision is logical and has been the prevalent strategy for nearly 40 years.
    Cant understand logic of those suggesting you go in order of “best taker” and leave your poorest to last and ask him to take the most pressure.

  6. Al Harris says:

    I’m with Bobby. I think Germany. I do find myself wondering though if the Soccernomics stats cited to support holding your best PK taker until 5th take into account the relative penalty taking skills of the players who are taking the penalties. If you are using your best guys early, it would tend to explain why the percentages go down as the number of takers go up. I still feel it’s a bad idea to hold your best shot so late in the competition that you might not get to fire it. Particularly if you lost the coin flip and go second, there is a very substantial chance you never get to fire your best shot if you place it even as late as 4th. I certainly see the logic in keeping an excellent PK man for the ‘money shot’, but I’d make him my number 2 guy and not my main man. He would still lead the parade. In today’s case, if Ronaldo had taken Portugal’s first and made it after Spain missed, it would have significantly ratcheted up the pressure. Having said that, I’ll take another look at that whole stat article and see if I’m missing something. Heaven forbid, but I get nervous when Bobby and I are on opposite sides of an issue. Oh, by the way, Roberto should definitely switch to decaf; he’s way too jacked up. But always a good read. Looking forward to today’s match.

  7. everwonthetreble says:

    I’ve got Germany today. Reus should be in instead of Muller based on form in the tournament and passing stats thus far and Klose over Gomez given Klose’s movement and versatility.


  8. Eoin O'Callaghan says:

    Germany. Perhaps Oezil to finally deliver a goal.

  9. Seattle Loon says:


    Thanks for making those comments: was wondering the same thing.

    Another day – another pseudo-controversy. David Beckham not picked for Britain’s Olympic Womens’ Soccer Squad. Makers of hair-gel everywhere must be devastated.

    According to lots of tubes on twitter he almost single-handedly won Britain the right to host the Games.

  10. Seattle Loon says:

    Germany will win. Would love to see an open game but fear another snoozer.

    Roberto – have you seen the TV show ‘Breaking Bad”? I fear you might be a consumer of the product that it features. Definitely with Al on you switching to decaf. Said out of affection obviously.

  11. Seattle Loon says:

    Roberto..think you might be a clairvoyant.

  12. fabr04 says:

    @Al Harris – “Heaven forbid, but I get nervous when Bobby and I are on opposite sides of an issue.”

    I feel exactly the same way, but I agree with you: Bobby’s got this one wrong. I’ve read Bobby’s Forbes article 3 times because I’m sure there must be something I’m missing, but there isn’t: the “best player must go first fallacy” is, itself, a fallacy. I see no evidence that the decline in percentages is due to increasing pressure; the decline could just as easily be the fact that – wait for it – higher quality takers go earlier. Furthermore, there is a 100% chance that your first 3 takers will get a chance to shoot…but a less than 100% chance that #4 will go, and a substantially lower chance (80%? 90%? I don’t know) that #5 will shoot.

    And Bobby’s comment last night “Two words: Didier Drogba” is a complete mystery to me. What about the two words “John Terry”? Or “Fabio Grosso”? Were they the best available in the 2008 CL final and the 06 WC final?

    And let’s not forget that Cesare Prandelli made sure his top scorer Mario Balotelli took kick #5 against England…no wait, he went first! Well then, it must have been Andrea Pirlo…no wait, he went third! Prandelli left it up to West Ham legend Alessandro Diamanti, a guy with THREE caps to his name and ZERO goals, to go fifth.

    In other words, Prandelli was smart. Bento was not. Further questions may be directed to William of Ockham.

  13. John Terry ? wonder why he took the last penalty when Didier Drogba was playing….or was he sent off minutes before.
    Diamanti – a very solid penalty record taking the place of Cassano who he came on for.
    No you are right you don’t get it and I have lost the patience to explain any further. Very interesting that in Europe the issue is pretty ho hum but over here…..only video technology could have generated more ridiculous comments.

    PS – any idea why I used italics?
    As for your grasp of what a % is well that is another thing completely.

  14. fabr04 says:

    “Diamanti – a very solid penalty record taking the place of Cassano who he came on for.”

    What?! I’ve got a lot of respect for your intelligence, Bobby – you and Roberto Martinez are the only football commentators I listen to – but what you’re saying simply doesn’t make sense. Are you arguing that Prandelli had Diamanti take the last penalty kick because he was more trusted than Andrea Pirlo? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but when you say that putting your best PK taker last is “the prevalent strategy for the last 40 years”, all I can figure is that you think either (a) Prandelli went against conventional wisdom (along with Hodgson, I suppose, unless you feel there was an England player more dependable than Rooney and Gerrard waiting to take the 5th PK); or (b) Prandelli trusted Diamanti more than he trusted Pirlo, the MOTM of the WC 2006 final (and who, incidentally, took the first PK – I guess Marcello Lippi didn’t trust Pirlo either!)

    If even I, who has about 1% of your soccer memory, can cite multiple examples of the best PK takers going first, how can it be “the prevalent strategy for the last 40 years?”

    Slightly O/T but I don’t understand why Bento sent on Varela, a striker, for 7 minutes and then chose two CBs to take penalties.

  15. Alberta Gooner says:


    Following a meeting of our club’s select coaches this evening, I brought up the Soccernomics argument on the order of penalty takers. Every single coach along with the technical director sided with you on it. I don’t know if that’s any comfort after all the shit you’ve taken on Twitter over your article defending Bento but there are people in your corner.

  16. Alberta Gooner says:


    I’m actually comforted by your claim you don’t understand Bobby’s logic or why all the select coaches at my club agree with him. I don’t value the opinions of messsge board trolls.

    I’m also not worried about ever having to coach your children. People who tend to stay up all hours typing their random, manic thoughts on Internet message boards don’t usually reproduce. Thank God.

    Oh and “select coaches” refers to coaches in charge of “select” sides — competitive teams where players have to try out and be chosen as opposed to “house league” sides. It’s actually a fairly common term for people who are involved in competitive soccer so it’s not surprising you haven’t heard the term. It’s also not a shocker you’d comment on something without understanding it.

    No, about the only surprise left is how long before Bobby gets fed up with you constantly hijacking threads as a personal’s speaker’s corner to blurt out your random thoughts. Perhaps he finds it amusing but I’ll note it’s interesting how you’ve managed to stop all the conversation on this thread. Perhaps I’ll take my cue from others and stop feeding the troll.

  17. rdm says:

    Damn, and so close to a Godwin’s law sighting too I’m sure, although it was a 50/50 shot of it being this thread or the Forbes one! 😉

    I do have a question but it’s possible it’s been answered already in all the previous excitement or conversely you’ve given up on the entire internet, both options being quite possible at this point.

    The statistical analysis cited in your Forbes article (to my understanding anyway) appears to presume that pressure is the only factor for the relative differences in success rates of the different positions in the penalty order. Was there a supplementary portion that took into account the relative abilities of the players involved? If the perceived better penalty takers always went first, wouldn’t that skew the numbers accordingly?

    To be fair though, if the stats showed that regardless of skill, the further along in the order you went, pressure increases so visibly (statistically) on the taker, statistically you are giving yourself a more even chance when putting the “weaker” shooters up first, giving them the higher percentage chance to convert their kicks due to the lower pressure, and then put the stronger kickers later in order to allow their innate skill and ability to handle pressure to see them through? Is that the gist of things?

  18. RDM – Oh God you have made my day. Thanks so much for an intelligent question. You have nailed it. I have been seeking out other research and I found this piece written in one of the studies.
    “This means that without precise information regarding the technologies of each player, it is not possible to have a sharp, testable implication on the strategic allocation of players.”
    The technologies means the relative “strength” of each player vis a vis penalty kicks. What the study is saying is there has yet to be shown an optimal way to allocate players to kicks. We have the psychological aspect re placement – pressure mounts and technique becomes a greater point of differentiation. But what drives the process is the underlying assumptions being made by each coach and how that impacts the order of takers.
    When I coached I never considered or factored in that one of my players would miss. I factored in that my goalkeeper would save at least one – experience told me that it was a valid assumption. I always planned on going 5 whether first or second.
    I think it is fair to say that Cesc Fabregas did not convince del Bosque to put him 5th based on him being shit scared to take a penalty earlier or that let me go last boss because I am the worst of the lot.
    What it tells us is why the rhetoric on this has been strong. Everyone is coming off their own sets of assumptions and cannot see why others would differ. Add to the mix that many are viewing through a rear view mirror and you get nonsense.

    As his debate went on I wondered how many of the posters had ever been involved in a shoot out and/or directed players in one. One of the advantages of coaching amateur teams is that based on how many tournaments amateur teams play there is possibly more real life experience than in the pro ranks perhaps.

  19. fabr04 says:

    I suppose the horse is dead, but let me ask just one more question, Bobby. If you don’t think Bento made a mistake by putting his best last, and you don’t think Prandelli-Hodgson-whoever put their best first made mistakes, could you cite a specific example of a manager who DID make a mistake in lineup selection for PKs in a WC or Euro? I promise I won’t use your answer as an excuse to continue the discussion – I know you’re sick of discussing it, and I am grateful that you share your thoughts with readers.

  20. rdm says:

    HAHA glad I could help Bobby.

    That’s a really interesting point about the “technologies” of the individual takers being difficult to measure empirically. Short of managerial instinct and player persuasiveness you’d basically need to take the historical data of a player’s exploits when it came to their previous exposure to penalty taking, combined with the relative pressure of the situation plus what you know of their … I don’t know, mentality maybe? when it comes to extremely high pressure situations to end up with the most statistically profitable order for your penalty takers.

    Which explains I suppose why they conclude that all other things being equal or difficult to measure, pressure is added the further you go so assign spots accordingly.

    Also Bobby, I’m just going to leave this out here for you. Might make the last few days make a little more sense. It’s old but it has aged well.

    It’s hardly a dead horse if the questions are civil and the expectations of a response are clear. I’m interested to get Bobby’s answer to your question as well.

  21. You need to understand the coaches strategy – without their underlying assumptions that help develop their strategy you have nothing. Part of the assumptions come from the coach’s reading of a player in many situations and also his demeanour and how he has done at practice penalties. Strategy is rarely wrong – assumptions are.

    My strategy and the predominant one over 40 years has been to have your best taker go last. I based it on the belief that my keeper could save one at least and we would never miss more than one – that way my best kicker takes the last round of kicks in the highest pressure situation and I backed him to win.

    I would have a conservative but reliable taker go first – I felt it put everyone in the best frame of mind. It was usually a defender. We make far too many flawed assumptions about a penalty taker based on how he “looks” and often his position.

    I have in mind two players who played for me who were defenders – often awkward and had trouble hitting a pass 30 yards. But I can’t remember them ever missing a penalty – very cool under pressure.

    It never entered my mind that my best kicker would not kick and we would lose – that is also a very wrong assumption that is being made. Sometimes the last kicker doesn’t kick because his team has won already.

    If you have a boys under 10 team then the strategy of putting your best penalty takers first makes some sense – it makes no sense at higher levels. The next frontier may be for coaches to try and sense the other coaches strategy. At the moment we are focused on where kicks are placed.

    The point I was making in the article – most of which was not me but from the research paper – was that an inch either way on either of two penalty kicks and no one is questioning the strategy. Alves hits one inch lower and people are talking about what a brilliant penalty and gutsy too – one friggin inch.

    Suddenly you are looking at Ronaldo hitting the final penalty needing to score to keep Portugal alive. It also worth noting that although a team shooting second is at a disadvantage of winning statistically the odds even out dramatically should it go to round 6 or greater.

    Now if someone tells me that the coach should have anticipated a miss then the next question has to be – which one. Often it is not the miss it is the position in the order that seems to swing things. Hence the now widely reported “facts” that kicks # 1 and # 4 are most decisive. These kicks are only decisive given a certain set of circumstances. (The description of kick #1 as being decisive is flawed in that it might be influential but it cannot be decisive).

    Instead we get a knee jerk reaction from people who in the main have never faced that type of pressure.

  22. RDM says:

    Thanks Bobby, much appreciated.

  23. Al Harris says:

    @ RDM

    Thanks for the link. Brought a smile to my face.

    Al Harris (if that’s who I really am) 🙂

  24. Al Harris says:

    Having looked at Bobby’s latest in Forbes where the penalty takers for the 2008 final are listed, I see that Bobby is correct (naturally) in his statement that the strategy of most coaches seems to be hold your best until kick #5. Unless you assume that Italy felt Grosso was a better penalty kick taker than Del Piero. I surrender, Bobby. The strategy does seem to be pretty universal. Although I note that the best kicker didn’t shoot because the sequence was closed out by that pesky Fabregas yet again. Sigh, I still feel that when your team is shooting 2nd, a different strategy might be called for, but this will be my last post on the topic. Do I hear a Hallelujah? On a related note though, what do you feel the effect would be if the teams did not have to submit their 5 PK takers in advance but could just designate them as the shootout progressed? In which case, Bento might have used Ronaldo as the first kicker as soon as Spain missed to put the pressure on them. Just a thought. Also, is there a snowball’s chance in hell, FIFA would ever approve it?

  25. You got it. Strategy needs to be flexible – kicking first may need a very different approach than second. The question is can players deal with not knowing their position or changes of position being called by the coach?

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