I was there too, in front of the television set cheering for Italy, during the semifinals against Spain.
It ended in our favor after the penalties and that little masterpiece of Jorginho: for professional deformation, I could not resist by considering the situation from the point of view of fencing and the choice of the time.
I remembered having already written an article on the subject in 2012; many of the considerations made then, I could repeat today. So, I invite you to read that article, here below available in pdf format:
Today, I would like to add a few details to complete the picture and show, once again, that fencing is always the basis of tactical comparisons.
The video with all the penalties can be easily found on Youtube, with the vision from the various angles.
I analyzed them in slow motion, to be quite sure of my conclusions, which I gladly share with those who appreciate the genre: not everyone likes to split hairs in four, preferring the emotional aspects to the technical ones. But it is from the knowledge of the latter that solutions to problems often arise: technical knowledge, precisely.
By “choice of time” we mean the ability to identify the exact point (spatial and temporal) of our intervention, which will depend on the knowledge (observation, memory and prediction, then the bet) of the rhythm of the opponent’s action. Exact point means to arrive “together” to the forecasted stimulus (a little before or a little after) with a very low margin of error (a few thousandths of a second); it is a different thing from arriving always “after”, as it happens with “the reaction time”, with delays in the range of tenths of second.
In the case of fencing, we know that the critical area, that of the entering in the fencing distance, also involves the passage from an action “to see”, that is a closed circuit (the feedback received allows us to correct the movement in progress), to an open circuit (feedback comes too late for any movement corrections). This is the moment of “decision-making”: the stimuli transmitted and received at this time are the most significant and determining. And now we can go back to the penalties.
Analyzing in slow motion the run-up of the rigorist and the beginning of the movement of the goalkeeper, we can reasonably conclude that the moment of the decision is that of the last support of the foot that will then kick: this support follows the positioning of the other foot next to the ball and then the kick with the right foot (always the same, in our case).
I will overlook on the various possible strategies, which you can find in the previous article.
Here I would like to point out how the skip that Jorginho performs on the right, just before the kick, gets the desired effect of significantly lengthening the time between support and kick: the goalkeeper moves (open circuit) in the direction chosen at the moment of support and so, Jorginho has the time to see it and decide (closed circuit) which side to throw. Steady nervs and precision, characteristics of a champion, allowed him to kick in the net with a slowness almost mocking. Nice fencing!
by Giancarlo Toràn
translated by Lara Ortolani
The cover image shows Jorginho in suspension, during the jump that precedes the kick, while the goalkeeper has already started to dive on the right
Images taken from the broadcasting of RAI 1