By Kim DeRaedt
For those of you with poor memory, let me provide a brief refresher regarding the 2006 World Cup. The tournament was staged in Germany. France and Italy competed in the final. Knotted at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the teams appeared to be evenly matched. Tired from the month-long competition and bearing in mind FIFA’s Fair Play ideals, the referee blew the whistle and the sides agreed to become co-champions. Fans in attendance and citizens of both countries were elated as Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro and French foreman Zinedine Zidane each grabbed a handle and hoisted the Cup into the air. For the next four years, the trophy rested in Italy for three months before being transported to France and the pattern persisted. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Then there’s the non-fiction version of the 2006 World Cup Final. Knotted at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, overtime did nothing to budge the score. Penalty kicks followed. The ball was placed 12 yards from the goal. Five Italians scored; three Frenchmen converted their attempts. Five is greater than three, Italy won, and that’s all she wrote.
Let’s cut to the chase. Anybody who has been around soccer long enough and the countless players whom have witnessed 90 minutes of their hard work be deflated by a swift strike from the spot know that penalty kicks can be a sour way to determine a winner. To American sports fans: Like it or not, soccer (usually) permits ties. After all, a goal is a little more valuable than a measly 10-foot jumper that occurs umpteen times during a basketball game. However, sometimes a winner must be determined as is frequently the case in tournament play. It can be, and is often, argued that penalty kicks are an abrupt, unskillful, and luck-based manner to conclude a match. If penalty kicks are so wrong, the question begs, what is the right way to crown the victor?
Not: Forget the statistics, studies, and Nano-second analyses. The bottom line is that during a penalty kick the goalkeeper has only the “splittest” of split seconds to react to the shot and typically must read cues from the kicker in advance. Even then, little to nothing can be done to prevent well-placed, hard-struck attempts. Guessing is always an option and luck comes into play, but “luck” is no way to determine a winner whether it be for the World Cup championship or the North City Soccer League crown. What’s more, it isn’t the most spectator appealing affair. While penalty kicks earn points as far as suspense and anticipation, the kick is in the back of the net before a fan can blink. Sure sports are uncertain and of course they are meant to be risky, but not all players and supporters are wild about the Vegas-like ending. Find out more!