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General Ability and Specialization: Evidence From Penalty Kicks in Soccer


  • Florian Baumann

    (University of Tübingen)

  • Tim Friehe

    (University of Konstanz,

  • Michael Wedow



This article revisits the 2 × 2 penalty kick game and seeks to explain differences in mixed strategies associated with different player types and the relative performance of these player types. The authors show that (a) a kicker’s general ability is a reliable indicator of his success rate, (bi) a kicker’s specialization rate increases with his general ability, and (c) left-footed kickers who present a minority within the total population are characterized by a higher success rate. Consequently, the authors establish that more able kickers show a higher degree of specialization. Their greater specialization, however, has neither an adverse nor a beneficial impact on their success rate. All the theoretical predictions are in line with empirical evidence from the German national soccer league.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Baumann & Tim Friehe & Michael Wedow, 2011. "General Ability and Specialization: Evidence From Penalty Kicks in Soccer," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 12(1), pages 81-105, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jospec:v:12:y:2011:i:1:p:81-105

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    Cited by:

    1. Germán Coloma, 2012. "The penalty-kick game under incomplete information," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 487, Universidad del CEMA.
    2. Mario Lackner & Hendrik Sonnabend, 2017. "Coping with advantageous inequity - Field evidence from professional penalty kicking," Economics working papers 2017-21, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.

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    game theory; mixed strategy; soccer; penalty kicks;


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