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A down-the-middle penalty save

Last night I saw some soccer highlights from the Mexican League, between innings of another Clemens gem. In the Toluca match (recap en espanol) a penalty taker attempted to emulate Thierry Henry, by casually chipping the ball down the middle. The keeper stayed on his feet though, and hence caught the ball with ease. Maybe they are adjusting? See the posts below on the down-the-middle theory of penalty kicks.

Footnote: If someone can interpret Spanish, I'd be grateful to know what the recap says about the incident. The host on Fox Sports World mumbled something about the penalty taker throwing the match. He had no clue that an interesting episode of a long run strategic game was unfolding before him.

Update:Rey Hernandez (an first rate graduate student at Clemson) provided a translation of the story in the comments section, which belongs on the main page. The newspaper writer called it a mistake too.

The relevant paragraphs are the last three. Here's a loose translation.

With a near tie, Tecos had clear possibilities: a penalty kick because Da Silva pulled Abreu, pointed out by the assistant Pedro Rebollar to the central judge Manuel Glower Guerra.

But Abreu infamously failed this opportunity by giving away a soft kick down the middle, and never made it past Hernan Cirstante, the keeper, who was practically waiting for the ball to reach his chest.

In the end of the game Abreu worked hard to make up for his mistake and had two more scoring possibilites, but the Diablos' keeper saved the shots and led his team to a close victory.

Note that the media's response to this incident supports Chiappori, Levitt, and Groseclose's conjecture that pursuing this strategy and failing would bring disproportionate costs to the penalty-taker.

Thanks, Rey!