Penalty Kick – Attacking Team



When a penalty kick is awarded during the normal run of play in soccer, the teammates of the kicker don’t just stand around and watch the kick!

When a penalty kick has been awarded during the normal course of play, it is a RE-START.  This means that at the moment the ball is kicked, it is LIVE and IN PLAY.  If the ball has been blocked or saved by the goalkeeper, or it has rebounded back into the field off the goal, full action immediately resumes.

If the ball has not gone into the goal or out of bounds, all attacking players must have been properly pre-positioned and then react to the ball being in play, usually by moving toward the goal to obtain any rebound and to shoot.

Everyone must review and understand the details contained in Law 14 of the Laws of the Game, “The Penalty Kick.” The kicker must know his or her responsibilities, but so must all of their teammates.  The coach designates the kicker, but the most important portion of Law 14 for the rest of the attacking team is:

All players, other than the kicker and the goalkeeper, must be –

    • At least 10-yards from the penalty mark (This is the purpose of the partial circle at the top of the penalty area known as the Penalty Arc, the “bubble,” or the “D.”  See Law 1, “The Field of Play,” for identification of the Penalty Arc.);
    • Behind the penalty mark;
    • Inside the field of play; and,
    • Outside of the Penalty Area.

There is a fairly standard position chart that addresses these requirements:

Penalty Kick Attacking Team

Typical positions for attacking team players on a Penalty Kick.

The coach may designate which players take the positions outside the Penalty Area and the Penalty Arc, but it doesn’t matter as long as the players fill the positions and understand their duties.

Attacking players must get into position immediately in order to box out an opponent.  If a player gets to a spot first and then is jostled by an opponent, they are to hold their ground.  If they get there after a defender, they should stand beside them and not try to jostle them out of position.

Only after all the players are in place in accordance with the Law, and all of the other conditions for a penalty kick have been met, will the referee signal for the kick to be taken.

It is NOT the whistle, or any motion made by the referee that indicates that the kicker may proceed with the kick, that permits players to move into the Penalty Area or the Penalty Arc.  These players must wait until after the ball has been touched by the penalty-kick-taker and it clearly moves forward.

Coaches must instruct their players that all within-game penalty kicks must be followed-up.  Every attacking player must be prepared for when a penalty kick is saved, blocked, or rebounds and to respond accordingly.

The kicker must understand that they cannot touch the ball again until it has been touched by another player.  This most often means a block by the goalkeeper.  It is not a rebound off the goalpost or the crossbar.  If the kick is blocked by the goalkeeper, the kicker must follow-up instantly.  If a rebound off the goal occurs, the kicker must clear way for a teammate to get to the ball.

This was demonstrated dramatically during the USA vs. Vietnam group-stage game in the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup.  After a particularly poor penalty kick by Alex Morgan, the ball was blocked by the goalkeeper and Morgan had an excellent opportunity to follow-up her shot and put the ball into the back of the net.  Instead, she briefly froze and didn’t go to the ball until it was too late.  By the time an attacking teammate arrived, so had a defender and the ball – and a significant opportunity – was lost.

Attacking teammates must not hesitate because the kicker does not go after a ball, either correctly because it came off the goal, or incorrectly because it was blocked by the goalkeeper and the kicker didn’t realize that they could now strike the ball again.  Attacking teammates must go for the ball as second nature.  They also have to be careful to read and react properly so that they don’t over-run the ball.

Finally, if the ball is secured by the goalkeeper, all members of the attacking team must go directly into a defensive mode.  This is particularly important to cover a possible fast break or quick counter.

As a reminder, the following sanctions apply for players who do not follow the penalty-kick procedures –

      • the player taking the penalty kick or a teammate offends:
        • if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
        • if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts with an indirect free kick
      • except for the following when play will be stopped and restarted with an indirect free kick, regardless of whether or not a goal is scored:
        • a penalty kick is kicked backward
        • a teammate of the identified kicker takes the kick; the referee cautions the player who took the kick
        • feinting to kick the ball once the kicker has completed the run-up (feinting in the run-up is permitted); the referee cautions the kicker

      Soccer Coaching Tips:

        • This article addresses penalty kicks taken during the course of a match. This article does not address a “penalty kick shoot-out,” used to determine the outcome of a tied match.  Kicks taken during a shoot-out are not live after a kick has been taken.  These are governed by slightly different rules, most notably that once the ball has been kicked there is no follow-up allowed.  See Law 10, “Determining the Outcome of a Match.”
        • Attacking teammates must be well aware of any decision by a coach or a player to ‘fake” or actually switch the penalty-kick taker.
        • Attacking teammates must not be fooled by their own penalty-kick taker using a “stutter-step,” “skipping,” or a “paradinha.”  This is also true for a “tap kick,” where the penalty-kick taker actually pushes the ball into play and an on-rushing teammate runs on to shoot.
        • Additional time may be allowed for a penalty kick to be taken and completed at the end of a half or extra time. When this happens, players other than the kicker and the goalkeeper are not involved.
        • See “Penalty Kick Taker” for the techniques to be used by the players who actually take penalty kicks.


      © Copyright, John C. Harves