As the seconds frittered away in the League Cup Final last Sunday and both the players of Liverpool and Manchester City looked to have nothing left in the tank, I rubbed my hands with glee welcoming the looming penalty shootout.
There are some fans who seem to watch shootouts though their hands – mainly as supporters, but sometimes as neutrals too – feeling the nerves of the players in the cruel, random lottery which will now determine the winner. I on the other hand love a good penalty shootout. I love the drama, the mind games and the fact that it’s truly down to kicker versus keeper. Heroes and villains ready to find their fate and hopefully for the right reasons, they’ll find tomorrow’s headline on the back page of The Sun.
However there is something the dreaded penalty shootout could do without. This is the rise of the audacious, truly ridiculous and downright cocky Stutter penalty kick. You know the one – the penalty taker starts his run up and then almost stops dead in the tracks, with the intention of fooling the keeper by making him dive before kicking the ball.
Here is an example of Neymar perfecting the art, but quite often you see it fail miserably.
Now I’m not old school by any means or do I subscribe to the Peter Kay soccer school; nor do I bang in ten goals every Thursday, but a penalty to me is all about the solid run up, laces through and AVE IT! top corner.
I just cringe whenever I see a Stutter kick. And yes, it’s the certain level of cringe I only experience whenever I watch one of Donald Trump’s speeches.
From watching shootouts it’s clear to me that by stuttering you lose all momentum and power of your kick, not to mention you give the keeper a significant advantage if he’s not bought the dummy. This is where Big Willy managed to gather the edge against a Liverpool side not willing to give the ball ‘a bit of welly’.
But Wembley wasn’t just treated to one type of frustrating penalty kick. Oh no. We also had the infamous Panenka, one of the most condescending, wankiest penalty shots ever. If you’re not up to speed on your knowledge of all things spot kick, back in 1976 a rather confident Czechoslovakian chap by the name of Antonin Panenka won the Euros for his country by scoring the winning goal in a penalty shootout against the West Germans. His penalty consisted of a light ‘chip’ into the goal – not with the intention of lobbing the keeper but to anticipate the dive of keeper so that the ball would softly bounce into the net where he once stood. It’s seen as the essence of soccer swankery; the kind of thing you’d expect wannabe Messis and Ronaldos to try and pull off.
Admittedly Emre Can, who was guilty of looking very smug (until the end of the shootout at least), managed to make it look simple. But they don’t always pan out and looks hilarious (not to mention extremely embarrassing for the brave soul who attempted it).
These heinous crimes in spot kick taking got me thinking about other absolutely unnecessary instances of pretentious kicking in footballing history. I then remembered the Henry and Pires failed ‘double act’ penalty which wasn’t just disrespectful, it was just plain bizarre. Then again, in those days Thierry was the cheeky little scamp couldn’t do anything wrong so we’ll let him off.
That was before the Irish game where he took matters into his own hands…
What do you think? Am I just a big moaner failing to appreciate these types of footballing poetry? Or is the Panenka a punch to the face not just to the opposition but to football in general? How do you like to take your penalties?