Friday December 7 2012
Pirlo and penalties...

Andrea Pirlo is on first name terms with the ball but, as Antonio Labbate explains, they don’t always get on with each other from the penalty spot.

For someone who can seemingly thread a ball through the eye of a needle, at a distance of 80 yards in torrential rain while wearing his slippers, Andrea Pirlo has the tendency to apparently become a somewhat average player from the penalty spot.

That’s right, Andrea Pirlo. The same magician who just a matter of months ago embarrassed Joe Hart at Euro 2012 with one of the most audacious and ice cool penalties the world game has ever seen. While that is an example of what the playmaker can do with spot-kicks, it is by no means the norm.

This, of course, is not news to followers of Serie A. Pirlo has regularly been denied down the years and his shocking effort in last week’s 3-0 win over Torino was just the latest example of his kryptonite. That Marcelo Salas-like derby miss was his eighth from 22 in the Italian top flight – giving him a current conversion figure of 64 per cent.

That success rate has been on the slide since his arrival in Turin. Despite undoubtedly being the side’s most technically gifted player, Pirlo has missed all three of his efforts while wearing the black and white shirt. What makes those human errors even more surprising is that he failed to hit the target with two of those. He admittedly slotted home the rebound against Roma, but he hit the post at Cesena and the Toro miscue didn’t even get close to troubling the woodwork.

Another eyebrow-raising fact is that if you list the 116 players to have taken a penalty for Juventus, in terms of their conversion rate, then Pirlo would be rock bottom. Fifteen other players have also failed every time with their spot kicks in the club’s history, but 13 of them had taken just one penalty and only Virginio Rosetta and Guglielmo Gabetto had failed to score with a total of two.

The numbers thus make it clear that there is a potential flaw to Pirlo’s game, but it is not enough to redefine him as a player. After all, Riverino is not the first ultra-talented footballer to struggle from 12 yards out. Giancarlo Antognoni was hardly prolific given that he missed seven of his 25 League pens, while Gabriel Batistuta only rippled the net in 14 of his 24. At Juve, Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Rossi and Gianluca Vialli only recorded 50 per cent successes.

Pinpointing exactly why Pirlo seems to have developed this defect is complex. He generally places his penalties, which could potentially give goalkeepers more of a chance, but Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero commonly didn’t blast and they scored 82 per cent of their spot-kicks. It surely can’t be a mental issue either,  as you don’t delicately chip in a European Championship quarter-final shoot-out if you don’t fancy yourself to score. You also have to throw in the factor of whether the ‘keeper is fortunate enough to dive in the right direction.

Whatever the reasons, there are players who just seem to be more suited to stepping up to the plate than others. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed just two of his 26 Serie A pens, while Diego Milito has been denied three times in 25. Former Lazio and Milan right-back Massimo Oddo, who was considered a specialist in the field, ended his career with identical figures to the Argentine.

After Pirlo’s miss against Roma last season, boss Antonio Conte confirmed Pirlo as the club’s penalty taker in the on-field absence of Alessandro Del Piero. But something has changed this term with the promotion of Arturo Vidal, who has put away three of his four. Mirko Vucinic then netted in the 3-1 win at Genoa. And, on Saturday, with Vidal rested, there was a discussion between Vucinic, Claudio Marchisio and Pirlo before the latter took responsibility.

You’ve got to give Pirlo credit for that, but it was hardly a surprise. And it wouldn’t be totally out of character if he asked for the ball again when Juventus are next awarded a free shot. Some fans may shudder at the thought, but you don’t take the risks that the former Milan man does on the field of play if you’re scared of failure. Anyone can miss a penalty, but hardly anyone can play like Pirlo.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
pirlo pirlo top player of the year 2012 his scored england vs italy???????
on the 7th January, 2013 at 1:32pm
Pirlo scored his penalty in a World Cup Winning Penalty shootout...
Nuf said
on the 8th December, 2012 at 4:04pm
I have always been a fan of Pirlo's, even when he played for Milan i would watch their games because of him and Inzaghi. When it comes to taking penalties, i just don't think he should be taking any for Juventus. I don't think he is a bad penalty taker, but right now his body language while walking to the spot is horrifying. I mean just by watching him take the ball to the spot i can tell if he is going to make it or miss it. If i can predict this im sure the GK can as well.
on the 8th December, 2012 at 2:34pm
Baggio cost Italy the World Cup in 1994? His 5 goals in 3 games SENT Italy to the final. He carried the team on his back to face Brazil or they would have crashed out in Rd of 16! Why do people constantly say Baggio cost Italy after the penalty? 2 shooters missed before him so I believe they had a hand in the mathematics as well...don't you? AND Brazil still had one more shot to put past a mediocre Pagliuca. Get facts straight before you simply speak out of passion for a player :)
on the 8th December, 2012 at 1:15pm
Pirlo is a sage. Really? After all he has done for Milan, Juventus, Italy, and always being a consistent performer, bored critics still need to find something wrong with him. This is the problem with critics nowadays they find anything to criticize about. Find something else to write about and draw attention to a noteworthy topic instead of bashing one of the greats.
on the 8th December, 2012 at 8:55am
I still want to watch Pirlo take any penalties
on the 8th December, 2012 at 7:56am
Totti has missed more than 1 out of 3 as well since 2007 and from all who have taken in his absence (vucinic osvaldo pizarro boriello) only boriello and pizarro have missed one, i think just 2 misses in 12 spot kicks.

sometimes it is better to rotate and let a player who feels confident atm take it, as akways the same spotkicktaker can become predictable for the gk AND always puts the pressure on the same player to come up with something "new" or go for your "safe" corner if u are not confident
on the 7th December, 2012 at 11:04pm
Where did you find the conversion rate stats? I've been looking for them for quite some time now.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:44pm
I don't understand why some people are taking this so personally.

Antonio is just presenting an interesting statistical fact. One would imagine Pirlo to have a better conversion rate with his penalties, that's all. No one was attacked or criticized.

All the greats have missed important penalties in their careers, it doesn't make them less great and it definately doesn't take away from their contribution or their place in the history of the game.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:00pm
Pirlo didn't score in 2003 champions league final he had been subbed off before the penalties
on the 7th December, 2012 at 7:27pm
Giovinco is begging to take over, you can see it on his face.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 7:26pm
Penalties are mostly based on luck and probability so I don't see why an article was written.... We all know that Pirlo's forte` is free kicks and a classical and unique style like no other player :)
This is coming from an Inter supporter : Viva San Pirlo !
on the 7th December, 2012 at 6:18pm
I think it has to do with that Pirlo isn't a regular goalscorer. There is no pressure with taking a freekick because if you miss it will not be a big deal but if you miss a penalty...well then you will the scapegoat. If Pirlo were a forward or attacking midfielder I think he would be one of the best penaltytakers. Because he is used to score goals and with that perfect right foot there is nothing to hold him back. Of course there are exceptions like Vidal, Oddo etc being good penaltytakers.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 6:16pm
Why don't you write about Balotelli and penalties? He is the best of them all. Will never miss a penalty in his life.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 5:28pm
One of the best italian footballers of all time missed against Brazil one year and he is mentioned to have an 82 percent success rate in career penalty kicks.

Listen in the end it comes to when the kick is made. Baggio cost us the World Cup, Pirlo didnt. End of story.

Hail King Pirlo...

Forza JUVE
on the 7th December, 2012 at 5:01pm
its his mop headhaircut that gets in the way. Dude looks like Professor Snape, needs a haircut and a shave ASAP.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 1:55pm
Andreita is some kind of a mistery from the spot, even when we were little playing in the neigborhood he was always scared of taking those penalty kicks, but free kicks from 20 40 yards he would never and i mean never miss, both feet also...
on the 7th December, 2012 at 12:45pm
Even if Padre Pirlo misses a penalty, it is all part of His plan...we still end up winning. Forza Juve e Viva San Pirlo!
on the 7th December, 2012 at 11:18am
World Cup Final July 9th Berlin.... Andrea Pirlo puts one past Barthez easily.... And gets the ball rolling for Italy.... And we go on to lift our 4th World Cup! You don't get bigger then a World Cup Final its the ultimate prize that every footballer wishes for.... And when it really counted Andrea Pirlo did what he had to do! So great memories of Andrea Pirlo and penalties!
on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:45am
He took the penalty in the penalty shoot out at 2006 world cup final... what a penalty that was... but then again with acm he scored in 2003 final and missed in 2005 final
on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:35am
May be the beard is affecting too

on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:18am
Hey, play it down player.

Pirlo just need to gain his focus again. That's it. He needs to be rested for a few games. Now, knowing that the Champions League takes a hiatus, I think he could be given some time to recharge his battery.

I remember he started to miss a few at his spell at Milan, then Kaka started to take the spot kicks for some time too.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 10:17am
Normally when it really matters he scores all the great have missed even Messi
on the 7th December, 2012 at 9:42am
All statistics and past kicks aside, when there is a penalty in a clutch moment, Pirlo is the man you want to take the kick.
on the 7th December, 2012 at 9:33am

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