Sunil Chhetri: The science and psychology behind his penalty kicks

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Sunil Chhetri, the pride of India, has always been the go-to person to lead his nation through the way of success over the years. Chhetri, the captain-leader-legend, is just behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the list of the highest active international goal scorers. Whenever Chhetri scores a goal, the entire nation enjoys it and feels proud of the face of Indian Football.

Playing for India, Chhetri has scored 92 goals in 142 appearances. Sunil Chhetri is one of the most successful penalty takers in international football. Throughout his career, he has had a more than 90% conversion rate from the penalty spot.

Let’s find out the science and psychology behind Sunil Chhetri’s penalty kicks:

Taking penalties is the biggest pressure moment a footballer has ever faced. And it should be the easiest job in the world. One kick and one chance to beat the keeper and score.

The Science that works behind his successful penalty kicks:

There are a number of factors that contributed to Chhetri’s success from the penalty spot. There are many scientific issues that lie behind his success.

  • His technique:

Sunil Chhetri has a very smooth and consistent approach, which makes it difficult for goalkeepers to read his intentions. He has a good understanding of the goalkeeper’s movements and is able to read the goalkeeper’s body language. So he anticipates their movements and finds the net in a composed way.

  • Powerful shot:

Chhetri also has a very powerful shot, which gives him the ability to score even if the goalkeeper guesses correctly. His well-measured, drastic strikes help him find the net most of the time.

  • Finds the top corner:

Before the 2021–22 ISL season, Sunil Chhetri scored 12 out of 13 goals in the ISL. According to Sofascore, 61% of those shots were on the goalkeeper’s right side, whereas 39% of them were in the right bottom corner.

This statistical representation shows his intention to strike the ball at the top of the corner. As it is very uneasy for any goalkeeper to reach that corner spot in between some microseconds.

  • Interaction between body and brain:

Taking penalties is all about the interaction between body and brain. To perform your body according to your brain is the most important thing. Staying focused on his plan and maintaining his body balance until the last minute is the ultimate reason behind his success tally.

  • Practicing his target:

Practice makes a man perfect. Chhetri is an ideal example of how to work hard and give 100% to achieve success. About Chhetri’s penalty practice, Bengaluru FC and India’s No. 1 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu once said,

“We train almost every single day—me and Chhetri bhai. It’s an art for Chhetri bhai, to keep scoring whenever the chance comes. He wants to keep reinventing his technique. For me, when you have him shooting penalties makes my life difficult. I have to face that challenge and stay tough.”

The Psychology that works behind his successful penalty kicks:

Taking penalties is all about pressure. It’s a mental thing. Chhetri’s psychology also plays a role in his success from the penalty spot. Psychologically, the 30s bring a greater sense of self-awareness. And Sunil Chhetri, at 38, is psychologically at his best in penalty taking.

  • Be confident in high-pressure situations:

Sunil Chhetri is very confident and never seems to get nervous, even in high-pressure situations. He is very confident in his ability to score from the penalty spot and is never in a rush while scoring penalties.

  • Mental Toughness:

Chhetri can also play a very good mental game, and he is able to manipulate goalkeepers into making mistakes. He is mentally tough and able to handle the pressure of taking a penalty. He is not easily fazed by the goalkeeper’s attempts to distract him.

  • Body Language:

His self-confidence is evident in his body language and his approach to the penalty. Chhetri takes the penalty with a smooth and confident motion and a cool and composed mind.

  • Master in controlling the Adrenaline and heart rate:

Chhetri is not physically shaking in the moment of utter nervousness. Most of the time, he is never trapped by the opponent’s goalkeeper’s mockery and holds his nerves till the final strike.

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