Why penalty shoot-outs were introduced

It’s 40 years since Czechoslovakia beat West Germany on penalties in the 1976 European Championship Final - the first international title to be settled in a shoot-out.

Why were penalty shoot-outs first introduced?

As fixture lists became increasingly crowded, there was less and less scope for replays after drawn matches. This was particularly apparent in continental club competitions normally played over two legs. If the aggregate scores were level, there was a costly process of having to play a third match in a neutral venue in front of few spectators. At World Cups there had been a provision for replays up until the 1958 finals in Sweden, but four years later in Chile, drawn matches in the quarter and semi-finals would have been decided by the drawing of lots.

That doesn’t sound very fair!

It wasn’t and thankfully it never happened at a World Cup. The Final itself could have also been decided on lots in both 1962 and 1966, because although there was the provision for a replay for the Final until 1982, if the second game ended in a draw, there was no arrangement for a third game.

Was it the threat of lots deciding a World Cup Final that prompted the switch to penalties?

Not exactly. At the 1968 Olympic football tournament, Israel had been eliminated by Bulgaria on lots after their quarter-final had finished 1-1. Naturally the Israelis felt aggrieved. On 24 July 1969, FIFA received a proposal written by Michael Almog, who went on to become the Israel Football Assocation’s Chairman between 1973 and 1982, outlining his proposal for using penalties to decide drawn matches

So Roberto Baggio, Franco Baresi, Daniele Massaro and David Trezeguet, the players who have ended up on the losing side after missing penalties in World Cup Finals, should direct their complaints to Mr Almog?

It’s not that simple… His report may have kicked off the debate within FIFA which lead to penalty shoot-outs being accepted at the 1970 meeting of the IFAB - but they had been used before. The Yugoslavs in particular were big fans, having used penalties to decide drawn matches since the early 1950s. They may well have been the first, but no-one knows for sure.

So, the claims of German referee Karl Wald to be the inventor seem to be somewhat misplaced.

It would seem so. He may have been unaware of what was going on elsewhere in the world, but in an interview with Stern magazine in Germany, Wald himself says he came up with the idea in 1970, so that would cast doubt on his claim.

Were any alternatives to penalties suggested?

None. In his report, Almog states of his proposal “I’m not suggesting this is the best one” but the fact remains that no-one has since come up with a convincing alternative. A corner count was one idea. It was used to decide the 1965 All Africa Games tournament, when Congo won the Final against Mali 7-2 on corners (as reported in '1957-2007: 50 Years CAF'). But other than Congo having beaten Ethiopia 10-1 on corners earlier in the same tournament, this is unique in the annals of football. It has also been suggested that the teams share the title, and this has happened twice in the football tournament of the Asian Games, but there seems little alternative to penalties.

After the new guidelines came into effect in 1970, who was the first player to miss a penalty in international competition?

Jim Forrest hit the bar as Aberdeen lost their shoot-out to Honvéd in the European Cup Winners Cup. That was on 30 September 1970, the same day that Josip Skoblar and Jacky Novi missed for Olympique Marseille in their defeat at the hands of Spartak Trnava in the Inter-City Fairs Cup. Six years later Uli Hoeness made history when he shot over the bar during the shoot-out at the end of the 1976 European Championship Final penalty shoot-out - the first player to cost his team a major international title. Ironically, the Germans have won all five shoot-outs since and are currently on a run of 21 without missing!

That’s pretty impressive. Any other notable achievements?

The highest score in a continental Final was 11-10, when the Côte d’Ivoire beat Ghana to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992. But the highest ever score is reckoned to be the 20-19 victory of Argentinos Juniors over Racing Club in 1988. In that game, 44 penalties were taken, but that was still four short of the 48 that were needed to divide KK Palace and Civics in a 2005 Namibian Cup match. The record number of consecutive penalties scored in a single shoot-out is thought to be 29 in a match between English sides Brockenhurst and Andover Town in 2013. Brockenhurst won 15-14.

So, penalties are here to stay…

It seems so. But in Oceania, they're still waiting for their first taste of a shoot-out in the OFC Nations Cup - the only major continental or world tournament that has yet to see a game decided on penalties.