Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review of "Twelve Yards"

When I saw this book was being offered on NetGalley for review, I was intrigued - how can an entire book talk about penalty kicks?  Well, this book did so and was a fun read as well.  Here is my review of "Twelve Yards."

“Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick” by Ben Lyttleton

Football (English), soccer, World Cup, psychology

Publish date:
July 28, 2015

345 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

This sentence in the description of this book is a good description of the penalty kick: “The penalty kick is soccer in its purest form: kicker, goalkeeper, ball.” The distance between the ball and the goal is twelve yards. Since the goal is quite large and the goalkeeper cannot move until the kicker makes his move, it sounds easy for the kicker, right?  This book by Ben Lyttleton illustrates that is not necessarily true all the time.

Like the title says, the psychology of the penalty kick is covered in the book.  For this, Lyttleton uses a variety of sources – studies that have been devoted to measuring success on penalty kicks, interviews with players, coaches and others who have been involved in soccer and stories from famous games that were decided by penalty kick shootouts, including World Cup games, championship matches in various leagues and even some friendly matches as well.

There is no one consensus on the mindset of the kicker and the goalkeeper, and Lyttleton does a good job of presenting all sides to this argument.  From an expert who states a penalty kick is “90% psychological and 10% physical” to famous players who have missed penalty kicks saying that it wasn’t mental at all, just misplayed, the reader will be peppered with stories, interviews, game recaps and studies all devoted to that one play that is full of drama – the penalty kick.
I wish to thank Penguin Books for providing a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

No matter what topic a reader can think of about a penalty kick, this book has it covered.  Does the kicker or the goalkeeper truly have the advantage?  It is addressed.  If the reader wants to read about famous players and their experiences in this situation, many are covered – Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, and Zinedine Zidane are just a few of the sport’s legends who are mentioned in this book. How about famous shootouts, such as those that won World Cup tournaments in 1994 (men), 1999 (women) and 2006 (men)? Those are in the book as well.

This makes the book a great source of information on this simple but pressure-packed play.  Overall, it is a good and entertaining read.  Some of the statistical sections and reports on studies about the psychology were a tougher read, but overall this was an entertaining and fun book that soccer fans everywhere and of any level should enjoy.

Pace of the book:
It was a very smooth read during most of the book when the author was sharing stories, interviews and recaps but did seem to drag during the sections with statistical analysis, as I skimmed most of those sections after reading the theory behind the statistics.

Do I recommend? 
No matter what level of soccer fan a reader may be, there is something for everyone in this book. Many of the stories are entertaining, and one does not have to know about the history of the players, referees or teams involved to enjoy reading these stories about those twelve yards between the kicker and the goalkeeper when a penalty kick is called.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:


  1. I presume that this is an American blog? However, I've just got my hands on the 1966 World Cup 50th anniversary book, which is still a huge deal deal here in England as it's the only time we've won it! You should get a copy and review it, as it's a beautiful book. I think you can order a copy on their website which, I think, is this

    Would love to see your thoughts on this book!

    1. Hi Jordan - yes, I am American but I am interested in that book. I certainly can understand why 50 years later that World Cup would be a big deal. Thank you very much for that link.