"Penalties are a marriage of technique and mentality."
That is the verdict of sports psychologist Andy Barton on the seemingly simple task of sending the ball past a goalkeeper and into the net from just 12 yards out.
But as both elite and amateur footballers - not to mention millions of fans across the world - know, penalties are a complex and unpredictable affair.
Barton tells BBC Sport why a player's mind will be his most potent weapon when faced with the task of sending a nation into ecstasy - or, in some cases, agony - during Euro 2008.
To achieve consistency there needs to be something more than luck. That key ingredient is self-belief.
Take the example of Germany. The thing that spurred them on was their penalty shoot-out defeat by Czechoslovakia at the 1976 European Championships.
Greet it as an opportunity rather than something to be feared
Sport psychologist Andy Barton on taking penalties
From then on they just practised and practised. They have won their last five penalty shoot-outs and, overall, have missed very few penalties in that time. They created this belief that they are very good at taking penalties.
And it works both ways. They believe they are very good and the other team believes they are very good. It has a negative impact on the opposition.
Let the stress get to you, and it's going to have a negative affect on your ability to take a spot-kick.
A great example is the England penalties in the quarter final shoot-out against Portugal at Euro 2004. You only have to look at the body language of the players to know who was most likely to score.
The England team looked almost defeated before they started.
Compare that to Cristiano Ronaldo. His shoulders were back and his chest was puffed out. He was greeting it as an opportunity rather than something to be feared.
When they have fear, a lot of players stay safe and aim to take the percentage penalty.
The attitude towards taking a penalty is very important.
The really good penalty takers will hit them hard and wide with real confidence. They give the keeper no chance of saving the ball at all.
Ballack shows real assurance and copybook technique as he connects
Think of Alan Shearer or Michael Ballack. You are never going to touch a penalty Ballack takes. German players have different attitudes to taking penalties.
In the same way that a golfer has a routine and goes through it time and time again, it's crucial for a player taking a penalty to have routine and to make it very consistent.
The other thing is when you practise, to do so with pressure - such as people shouting [abuse] behind the goal at you. So when you do it in real circumstances you are used to stress.
If that same player was out on a training field and had no pressure on him at all, it's very likely that they'll be able to kick the ball where they want to in the back of the net.
It's when the added pressure of many thousands of people are watching that the mental state changes.
Technique is driven by the mental state a person is in.
If the mind fears something, it's going to have an impact on how the body feels - the muscles are going to become tense, the heart is going to be beating fast and the breathing is going to change.
All that is going to have an impact on technique and the player's ability to kick the ball cleanly into the net.
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