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May 15, 2014

Top Tenner: FA Cup finals


Some of the cruelest World Cup moments have come from 12 yards out. Here are 10 of the best penalty shootouts from down the years ...

10) West Germany versus France, 1982

Let us start at the beginning. Penalty shootouts in one form or another have been around since the early 1950s, and adopted by several official competitions by the late 1960s. By the 1970s, several European club games had been decided by them, as well as the 1976 European Championship final when Czechoslovakia beat West Germany thanks to Antonin Panenka's audacious chip.

They were introduced to the World Cup in 1978, but rather inconveniently all games that year were resolved inside 90 or 120 minutes, so the first example of a shootout at a finals was the 1982 semifinal. The game had finished 1-1 at the end of normal time (which featured German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher's charge on Patrick Battiston), before a frantic extra 30 minutes brought four more goals: France going 3-1 up through Marius Tresor and Alain Giresse, before Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer levelled things for Germany. "I love penalty shootouts -- I love that one-on-one situation," said Schumacher years later, and he showed why, saving from Didier Six and Maxime Bossis, giving big centre-forward Horst Hrubesch the chance to put the Germans through, which he duly did.

9) Switzerland versus Ukraine, 2006

Sometimes penalty shootouts not only raise the level of excitement, but provide all of it. The initial 120 minutes in this second-round game between Ukraine and Switzerland were excruciating -- two sides not blessed with the gift of adventurous play that danced around each other for two hours and failed to breach the goal. It was as if they wanted someone to force them to put the ball between the posts, which the rules insisted they both did from 12 yards, but even then both teams did their very best not to. Seven penalties were taken and only three of them scored, all by Ukraine, as Switzerland became the first side not to score in a World Cup penalty shootout, simultaneously exiting the competition as the only team to go out having not conceded a goal. Quite a double.

8 ) Portugal versus England, 2006

Switzerland versus Ukraine was the first World Cup shootout to see more penalties missed than scored, but Portugal and England matched that 'feat' five days later, in their quarterfinal game in Germany. Again, the 120 minutes were rather testing for the viewer, but the players did their best to spice things up by making a frightful hash of the shootout -- Portugal attempting what few have managed: to be worse at penalties than England. Both sides missed two of their first three penalties (Simao and Owen Hargreaves the only ones to find the net), before the Portuguese finally got it together through Helder Postiga, then Cristiano Ronaldo, with Jamie Carragher missing to put England out. "We practised penalties so much, I really don't know what more we could do about it," said Sven Goran Eriksson after the game.

7) Argentina versus Yugoslavia/Italy, 1990

For fans of a certain generation, Italia '90 has been romanticised, partly because it was a proximate tournament that everyone in England could watch, partly because of Paul Gascoigne and all that, and partly because football was on the verge of exploding into the behemoth we see before us today. In truth, it wasn't a tournament particularly high on quality, something the holders Argentina demonstrated rather nicely, stumbling through the first round before notching a massive boost of a win over Brazil in the second, getting through to face Yugoslavia. That game would be another turgid affair, but it did allow Argentina keeper Sergio Goycochea -- only playing because first-choice goalie Nery Pumpido had broken his leg in the first round -- to step up for his finest hour. Diego Maradona and Pedro Troglio both missed, but Goycochea saved their bacon by keeping two penalties out, after Dragan Stojkovic had hit the bar.

That put Argentina into the semifinals against hosts Italy, where they would once again go to spot-kicks, and once again Goycochea would shine, saving from first Roberto Donadoni then Aldo Serena. In two shootouts, Goycochea faced 10 penalties and saved four of them. Not bad at all.

{C}6) England versus Argentina, 1998

"Never outplayed, never outfought, never outsung, England are nevertheless out of the World Cup. And once again it is the tyranny of penalties that has brought England down, as at Euro 96, as at Italia 90, history repeating itself in the most callous manner imaginable." So read the rather florid match report in The Daily Telegraph after England's exit from France 1998, but it was really nobody's fault but their own. For starters, they probably wouldn't have been taken to penalties by Argentina if David Beckham hadn't got himself sent off and if Alan Shearer hadn't fouled Carlos Roa to wipe out Sol Campbell's goal in extra time.

Then there was the question of the spot-kicks themselves. Of course, Beckham's dismissal and the subsequent substitutions meant that pickings were a little slim when Glenn Hoddle came to choose his takers, but again England didn't help themselves, as they had barely practiced penalties, and when they did Hoddle instructed them to do it from further out than 12 yards -- the 'logic' being that on the night the goal would be closer than they were used to, and thus easier to score. That particular psychological trick didn't quite work, as Paul Ince and David Batty missed, which wasn't exactly an enormous surprise since it was the first competitive penalty the latter had ever taken.

5) Ireland versus Romania, 1990

As is becoming clear, penalty shootouts quite frequently follow rather tedious games, and that was certainly the case for Ireland's second-round game against Romania in Genoa. No goals after 120 minutes meant penalties, and the first eight were despatched, with at least one of Ireland's (by Tony Cascarino) only just making it in. Then Daniel Timofte stepped up, took a weak kick -- born of either fatigue or nonchalance -- and Pat Bonner in the Irish goal dived to his left to save.

"Every day, I have people coming up to me to talk about it and thank me," said Bonner later. "It really wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that that one save changed my life forever, certainly in terms of recognition." Ireland weren't there yet, though, and David O'Leary stepped up for the final penalty. "The nation holds its breath," said RTE commentator George Hamilton as O'Leary approached the ball. "YES! WE'RE THERE!" came as he dispatched it into the net.

4) France versus Italy, 1998

Not many nations have a trickier relationship with penalty shootouts than the English, but the Italians are most certainly up there. Their list of failures and disappointments is long, and a big entry is the 1998 quarterfinal against France, when both sides had chances to win the game in normal time, only to be thwarted. Roberto Baggio and Zinedine Zidane converted the first kicks, but Demetrio Albertini and Bixante Lizarazu missed the second. Everything then went to plan until the 10th penalty, when Luigi di Biagio had to score in order to keep Italy alive, but he smacked his effort against the bar, collapsing to the ground as if his very world had ended.

3) England versus West Germany, 1990

There is a common theme with England's exit from numerous tournaments via penalty shootouts. Not just that they cannot seem to win (eight major tournament shootouts, seven defeats), but that in many games they shouldn't have let it get that far in the first place. England should really have beaten eventual champions West Germany before spot-kicks were required in the 1990 semifinal, but failed to capitalise on some early dominance and saw Peter Shilton's lack of mobility contribute to the German goal (as well as Paul Parker's back), not to mention Chris Waddle slamming the ball against the inside of the post in extra time.

And, as detailed in the fouls Top Tenner, Paul Gascoigne should have taken a penalty when the shootout came around, but such was his emotional state after picking up his second booking of the tournament and thus a suspension, that Waddle was ultimately called upon instead. "There were two ways to react," said Waddle later, after he had rocketed his penalty over Bodo Illgner's goal, following Stuart Pearce's miss. "Basically you can do a Lord Lucan and disappear or stick your chest out and prove to everybody you're a good footballer."

2) Italy versus France, 2006

Italy, it seems, only tend to win the World Cup when nobody expects them to. In both 1982 and 2006 they were a team in turmoil, reeling from the scandal in their domestic leagues and not given much of a chance with other, more talented teams thought to be ahead of them. The first time they won the final in regulation play, but the second they had to go through the most unpleasant but most exciting of methods, which produced a pretty unlikely hero.

Fabio Grosso had, until that World Cup, had a perfectly decent if unspectacular career, playing for assorted mid/lower-level Serie A clubs and not winning or indeed doing anything of particular note. That was until he got to Germany, where he scored the first goal in Italy's utterly remarkable semifinal win over the hosts, and then found himself taking the fifth penalty in the World Cup final. David Trezeguet had already missed, meaning that Grosso could win Italy's fourth title with a successful penalty. Grosso swept the ball into the corner of the net in the manner of a player who had been taking World Cup-winning penalties all his life, and a country went berserk.

{C}1) Brazil versus Italy, 1994

Football isn't fair. Sport isn't fair. Life isn't fair. It does not necessarily follow that the most talented get the furthest, that the gifted are suitably rewarded for their efforts, and if anyone ever needs any proof of that then all they need to do is watch the 1994 World Cup. Roberto Baggio was astonishing in that tournament, basically carrying an underperforming Italy side to the final, saving them with an 88th-minute equaliser then 102nd-minute winner against Nigeria in the second round, an 88th-minute winner against Spain in the quarterfinals, and both goals against Bulgaria in the semifinal. It's arguable that only Pele in 1958 and Diego Maradona in 1986 have had comparable individual impacts on a World Cup, but both of those men didn't have to take a penalty to win the thing.

After a dreadful 120 minutes, the penalties began, but Marcio Santos and Franco Baresi missed their respective first kicks. The next four were converted, then Daniele Massaro missed, Dunga scored, and it was down to Baggio to keep Italy in it. "I knew Taffarel always dived so I decided to shoot for the middle, about halfway up, so he couldn't get it with his feet," wrote Baggio in his autobiography. "It was an intelligent decision because Taffarel did go to his left, and he would never have got to the shot I planned." Alas things didn't go to plan, and Baggio ballooned his shot over.

Of course, even if he'd scored, Brazil could still have won had they converted their next kick, but history doesn't remember a detail like that. "Only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them," wrote Baggio. "I failed that time. Period. And it affected me for years. It was the worst moment of my career. I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment from my career, it would be that one."