in Cape Town
WHEN Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas pulled off a magnificent save to stop Oscar Cardozoâ€™s second-half penalty in their 1-0 quarter-final win against Paraguay last Saturday, he credited fellow goalkeeper Pepe Reina for the save.
Casillas signaled to the Liverpool stopper after the penalty to thank him for his advice.
â€œReina told me where he (Cardozo) would shoot. He is phenomenal.â€
Cardozo was later a distraught figure. He was inconsolable, walking aimlessly around the pitch, pulling his shirt over his head and into his mouth.
At Soccer City a day before, aside from the heartbreaking miss from Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan, there were tears flowing from Dominic Adiya and John Mensah â€“ both failed penalty takers in the 4-2 defeat to Uruguay.
As we move into the semi-finals, more tears are expected to flow as draws are no longer an option. There must be a winner in each match. So, when injury time runs out and the score is level, the next step will be extra time, and then penalty kicks â€“which is where we will need more Reinas.
All four semi-finalists may feel they now know how to win in the battle between goalkeeper and spot kick taker.
A lottery is the term used by most footballers to describe the dreaded shootout, but scientists reckon they can help.
Apparently Reina is a student of the John Moores University in the football-mad Liverpool, where researchers believe a penalty-takerâ€™s hips give the best indicator as to where he will place the ball.
In one of their research studies, they claim that in the last moment before the kick, the orientation of a playersâ€™ hips betray the intended direction of the ball, which should give the keeper a vital half-second in which to move to block the shot.
Goalkeepers, like Reina, who learned to interpret the signs, stood a nine percent improved chance of predicting which way to dive, the research found.
The researchers measured various angles of a strikerâ€™s body as he was about to take a penalty. Variations in the angles of different parts of the body revealed which way the ball would go - right, left or centre.
â€œIf the takerâ€™s hips are square-on to the goalkeeper in a right-footed kicker, the penalty goes to the right-hand side of the keeper,â€ says Mark Williams, a doctor of sports science.
â€œIf his hips are more â€˜openâ€™, or angled away from the goalkeeper, the kick tends to go to the left of the keeper.â€
In research conducted ahead of the World Cup, Williams showed goalkeepers life-size video footage of penalties being taken, filmed from the viewpoint of a keeper standing in the centre of the goal.
The film was stopped four times during the sequence - 120 milliseconds before the kick; 40 milliseconds before; at the point of impact; and 40 milliseconds afterwards. Spain are fortunate to have Reina.
Semi-finalists will need Reina penalty notes