Thursday, 28 June 2012

Penalty shootouts DO produce the right winner

There's probably nothing in football which better articulates the maxim, it's the hope that kills you.

So often, they're an unedifying spectacle placing disproportionate pressure on hapless keepers and hatchet man defenders. Ten minutes of drama at the end of two hours of red blooded commitment can render it all meaningless.

And yet, the much criticised penalty shootout does more often than not, solve stalemate satisfactorily.

It's rare indeed spot-kicks go the way of the undeserving team.
Arguably the penalty shootout's funniest moment!

I can only think of two unjust outcomes: when Argentina did for the host nation at Italia 90 and ironically, when the Italians did the same for the homers, Holland at Euro 2000. What goes around comes around!

But as England fans, we are better qualified than most to judge this way to settle a score. Few would argue the right team won as Italy advanced to the Euro 2012 semifinals at our expense.

In their Euro semi, Portugal defended manfully but Spain created more potent chances and produced greater goal threat.

Pouting, posturing Cristiano Ronaldo should've stepped up to the plate earlier, but it was all over for him when Bruno Alves skied a clumsy belter against the crossbar.

Ronaldo will regret his international career if he doesn't already. Vainglorious dufus.

Even Chelsea, the pragmatic, defensive away side in the Champions League Final, kept their nerve from twelve yards against a Bayern Munich side who misfired - and not just during the shootout either.

Munich played with the weight of history on their shoulders, while Chelsea's thirtysomethings summoned their group experience and deserved victory when it came from the spot.

Gareth Southgate's Euro 96 moment.
As I write this, a correlation's emerging between being home team and losing spot kicks (although Liverpool deservedly beat Roma at the Stadio Olimpico to win the European Cup).

But penalties sometimes overshadow a contest, particularly if there's a mismatch. Greece knew full well there'd be a winner on the night as they squared up to the overwhelming favourites, Germany. Knowing the prospect of pens lay at the end of a hard shift, they showed scant attacking ambition to achieve anything in 120 minutes. Luckily, they were punished by four German goals long before they could get over the line.

And I sense Roy Hodgson sought too much succour from Chelsea's Euros in preparing England to be hard to beat in theirs.

It was good enough to dispatch Ukraine and Sweden, but could never stack up against nations of the first water. Italy spared us the ignominy of another German thrashing.

So even though Sepp Bellend Blatter's floated a notion of alternatives to penalties, I reckon it's not such a bad way to find a winner.

Golden and Silver Goals have come and gone, but the shootout remains as the way to sort the winners from the losers, and that's football.