THE CLOCK is ticking on the penalty shootout. And about time, too.
After tomorrow’s European Championship final, FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants to see an end to shootouts in major international tournaments.
Blatter has already instructed Franz Beckenbauer, who heads a task force looking into rule change, to come up with the alternative.
The news should be music to the ears of England supporters who, of course, have endured the agony of yet another penalty shootout defeat this summer in the last eight against Euro 2012 finalists Italy.
Seven times England have been involved in penalties and only once – in the Euro 96 quarter-final against Spain – have they emerged victorious.
The Champions League final also went to penalties this season and, so, too, the all-Yorkshire League One play-off final between Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United.
For pure drama they are hypnotic, but in terms of settling a contest in a way that ensures the ‘greatest team’ wins, they are as wide of the target as a penalty by Chris Waddle.
All sorts of alternatives have been suggested down the years, some flippantly – such as a ‘paper, scissors, stone’ – and some which are worth exploring.
I would always prefer a game to be played out until another goal is scored – even if that means adjusting the numbers on the field or the conditions of play at set intervals.
Extra-time before penalties is a waste of time. The priority for most teams at that stage is ‘not losing’ so the 30 played minutes are nearly always uneventful.
If teams had to play without a goalkeeper in extra-time, it would definitely liven things up. It would stretch play because at least one defender would need to be employed to stay on the line.
How about using the corner count as a way of settling a drawn game?
If the team that forces the most corners was declared the winner in the event of a tie, it would encourage attacking play and make normal time more entertaining for supporters.
Before they were introduced in 1970, drawn games went to either a replay or were decided by the toss of a coin (for example, the 1968 European Championship semi-final won by Italy against the Soviet Union).
In the 1954 World Cup, Turkey even knocked out Spain thanks to a blindfolded child drawing straws. Unbelievable, I know, but true.
Rather worryingly, Beckenbauer has already expressed a reluctance to dispense with penalty shootouts, saying they ‘bring emotion to play’ and are better than the toss of a coin.
He would say that, wouldn’t he? The Germans are one of the best in the world at taking penalties – losing only one in five over the last 42 years.
Let us hope the ‘Kaiser’ can be persuaded to think about the future with a more open mind because I, for one, could not bear the idea of England losing another penalty shootout in 2014.