Daily Shorts

The Herald's lighthearted look at the world of sport

Supershorts: How to win pens and influence keepers

By Cameron McMillan

Fist-full of aggro helps in penalty shootout; and banana skin names.

The historic head-butt that marked the end of France great Zinedine Zidane's international football career is now more than just a memory.  Photo / AP
The historic head-butt that marked the end of France great Zinedine Zidane's international football career is now more than just a memory. Photo / AP

Researchers at the University of Munich in Germany have found footballers can increase their chances of scoring a penalty by simply clenching their left fist.

The study appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, available at all good bookstores, and found athletes focus too much on their movements when under pressure. The researchers hypothesised that clenching the left hand would activate the right hemisphere of the brain and decrease the player's chances of crumbling under pressure, the Guardian reports.

Thirty semi-professional footballers took part in the study by taking six penalty attempts one day, then again in front of 300 people the next day. The players that squeezed their left fist increased their success rate while those who squeezed their right fist missed more often.

A banana by any other name ...

It's been a long-running trend for young Brazilian footballers to choose shortened nicknames to help stand out but some of the latest players who appeared at the country's premier youth football tournament might want to rethink their choices.

Names at the Copa Sao Paulo tournament included Bananinha (translates to little banana), Salsicha (sausage) and Pangaré (mule), according to the blog Snap, Kaka, and Pop! At least they get points for originality.

The tournament also featured 15 Romarios, one Roberto Baggio, a Rudigullithi (after Dutch great Ruud Gullit) and a Lynneeker.

The best in recent memory though is Santa Cruz striker Creedence Clearwater Couto, which is actually his birth name.

Springsteen going for gold

The daughter of American rock music legend Bruce Springsteen is eyeing equestrian gold after purchasing the Olympic showjumping champion Murka's Vindicat from Great Britain rider Peter Charles.

Charles, 52, sealed Great Britain's team showjumping gold medal in London riding a faultless final round for the team on the Dutch-bred gelding.

Jessica Springsteen, 20, has inherited her mother Patti Scialfa's love of horse riding and made the American Olympic team long list.

Charles explained the sale of his champion saying that it was necessary so the syndicate that owned the horse could reinvest in younger horses for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

While the price was not revealed, top class showjumping horses have been sold for up to €6 million ($9.3 million).

Costly error

A blatant refereeing error in the final play of Tuesday's NFL clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks affected an estimated US$200 million ($242 million) worth of bets placed on the game.

The ending was one of the most controversial in NFL history when replacement referees wrongfully called a touchdown to award a dramatic victory to the Seahawks.

The current officials, who lack any experience at the professional level, have been brought in while the regular referees strike over a pay dispute.

To illustrate their lack of legitimacy - one of the referees who blew the call was recently dropped from the Lingerie Football League. According to one Las Vegas bookmaker, 70-80 per cent of bets were on the Packers, meaning the shock result produced a significant payday for the bookies.

Ring for sale

A member of the 2010 St George Illawarra Dragons NRL premiership side reportedly attempted to sell his grand final ring on eBay this week.

According to reports a ring was listed on the site with a selling price of $15,000.

Twenty rings are handed out to the winning team each year and valued at about $6000.

Dragons officials at first thought the ring had been stolen from a player but the seller contacted Foxsports.com.au to confirm the validity of the auction.

"I was selling it for a player who didn't want it known who he was," they said.

"He has decided after you contacting me to end the sale and keep the ring to avoid any negative publicity for himself or his family."

Zinedine Zidane forever losing his head

The historic head-butt that marked the end of France great Zinedine Zidane's international football career is now more than just a memory.

A 5m high bronze statue portraying Zidane aiming his shaven head at Italian opponent Marco Materazzi's torso has been erected in front of Paris' Centre Pompidou modern art museum.

Zidane helped France to victory at the 1998 World Cup, but in the 110th minute of a riveting World Cup final in 2006 against Italy, Zidane lowered his head and rammed Materazzi's chest, knocking him to the ground.

Zidane, who had been planning to retire after the World Cup, later apologised to viewers and said he was responding to repeated insults.

- NZ Herald

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