Is a Penalty Kick’s Direction Predictable? World Cup Goalies Take Note

BY Hari Sreenivasan  July 7, 2010 at 9:30 AM EST

What happens in that split second between when the penalty kick taker approaches the ball, and when the ball hits the back of the net? In the instant replays from behind the kicker’s shoulder, you can see in slow motion that more often than not, the goalkeeper has committed to leaping toward one side or another before the ball is even kicked? Why? What were they thinking? What are they looking for? What are the signals? The tells?

Gabriel Diaz from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been working on that for his doctorate, and he has found a few signals that can help a goalkeeper (or anyone else for that matter) become smarter at figuring out which direction to lunge when a kick comes flying their way. Take a look.