World Cup 2006 Pirlo Italy Germany
Photo Andrea Staccioli / Insidefoto

IFAB – the International Football Association Board, is planning to test a tennis-style pattern for penalty kick shootouts to remove the advantage for the team that wins the toss and kicks first.

Rather than having the shootout alternate from one team to the next, team A then team B, (ABABAB), IFAB will test (A BB AA BB A) until sudden death is reached, at which point it reverts back to ABAB. In other words, the team which goes first in a shootout will then have to wait two more turns before they kick again.

IFAB had been presented with statistical evidence showing the team taking the first penalty kick wins shootouts 60% of the time. The new format should remove the advantage of winning the toss and make it fairer.

IFAB is the universal decision-making body for the Laws of the Game of association football. Its objectives are to safeguard, compile and amend the Laws as they apply within the scope of world football as organised by FIFA, which includes ensuring that the Laws are uniformly applied worldwide and monitored accordingly, and that organised football is practised consistently.

“We believe that the ABBA approach could remove that statistical bias and this is something that we will now look to trial,” Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said after last Friday’s IFAB meeting. “It would mean the first 10 kicks are taken under the ABBA system and then when it gets to next-goal-wins then it would revert to alternate penalties.”

“The stats at the moment say 60 percent of penalty shootouts are won by the team that takes the first kick. We believe that the ABBA approach could remove that statistical bias and it’s something we would look to trial.”

Like many statistics there are always exceptions to the rule, and a good example of this is with the Italian national team. The Azzurri have not been very lucky when it comes to penalty kick shootouts. Since 1990, Italy has been involved in seven shootouts (4 in the World Cup, 3 in the Euro). Despite winning the draw to kick first 5 out of 7 times, Italy has only won 3 out of 7 shootouts. The times Italy did not kick first, they lost both shootouts.

Azzurri performance in shootouts under the current alternating system since 1990:

World Cup:
1990 vs Argentina (loss in semi-finals): Italy kicked first
1994 vs Brazil (loss in final): Italy kicked first
1998 vs France (loss in quarter-finals): France kicked first
2006 vs France (victory in final): Italy kicked first

2000 vs Holland (victory in semi-final): Italy kicked first
2008 vs Spain (loss in quarter-final): Spain kicked first
2012 vs England (victory in quarter-final): Italy kicked first
2016 vs Germany (loss quarter-final): Italy kicked first