To miss or not to miss
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Since this issue pertains to health, why not write about one of the most stress inducing sports moments that can negatively affect one’s mental health: penalty kicks in soccer. Penalty kicks are about as anxiety provoking as trying not to test positive for the latest COVID-19 variant.
A recent example was the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. With the score tied 1 to 1 after extra time, the match went to the dreaded penalty kicks. Italy scored on three of their five penalty kicks, whereas England missed three of their five penalty kicks. Marcus Rashford hit the post; Jadon Sancho was stopped by Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma; then 19-year-old Bukayo Saka had his shot stopped.
Unfortunately, Rashford, Sancho, and Saka later received racist abuse on social media by anonymous keyboard heroes. There was no need for those players to receive that kind of abhorrent abuse online. Granted, the three players could have taken better penalties.
Surely, there must be a better way to end a soccer match than resorting to penalty kicks. It is almost equivalent to deciding a winner in a baseball game by having a home run derby. But in the late 1990s, FIFA did experiment by incorporating a sudden death format (golden goal rule) at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup. After regulation and teams are still tied, two 15-minute halves would still be played. However, the first team to score during extra time wins the game.
But in the end, penalty kicks will always be stressful. And it is up to the players to try and be as calm and relaxed as possible. Easier said than done! My amateur soccer advice would be this… just kick the bloody ball hard—where the goalie can’t stop it.
Famous penalty kick misses
1) Roberto Baggio (1994 FIFA World Cup in the US)
In June 1994, the final between Italy and Brazil would go to penalties with the score 0 to 0. Dunga of Brazil would score to put Brazil ahead 3 to 2. Roberto Baggio had to score for Italy. Unfortunately, he kicked the ball over the net. Brazil rejoiced in victory while Italy resigned in sorrow. Years later, Baggio, in his autobiography, wrote that his penalty kick miss still haunts him: “They had to choose one image from the finals, and they chose my mistake.”
2) Michel Platini (1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico)
In June 1986, Michel Platini of France was considered one of the greatest mid-fielders. He took a penalty kick against Brazil in a quarterfinal match (game was tied 1 to 1). Astonishingly, Platini’s shot soared over the crossbar. His hands clutched his head in embarrassment. And to add salt to the wound, it happened to be Platini’s birthday as well. France did win the penalty shootout 4 to 3 to eliminate Brazil and a big sigh of relief for Platini. On the other hand, Platini’s penalty miss would have been good for a three-point field goal in the CFL!
3) Aldo Serena (1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy)
In July 1990, Italy was the host nation and faced Argentina in the semi-final in Naples. Diego Maradona, who played for Napoli (club team) was the enemy that evening. The game was tied 1 to 1 after the end of extra time. Argentine goalkeeper, Sergio Goycochea, had an outstanding tournament making key saves, especially during penalty kicks. He stopped Roberto Donadoni. Then Maradona scored to put Argentina ahead 4 to 3. It was now Aldo Serena of Italy to try to equalize. Unfortunately, Goycochea guessed correctly again diving to his left to stop Serena’s shot. Italy was eliminated while Argentina and Maradona celebrated.
4) Chris Waddle (1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy)
In June 1990, England faced West Germany in the semi-final with the match going to penalties with the score tied 1 to 1. During penalty kicks, West Germany went ahead 4 to 3. Chris Waddle needed to score to keep England alive. Unfortunately, Waddle’s shot sailed high over the net. Over the years, fans have quipped that Waddle’s ball was on a mission to the moon. Waddle has come to terms with his penalty miss and has a sense of humour about his gaffe. “It’ll be nice to see the ball again because the last I saw of it was when it went sailing out of the stadium and up into a lunar orbit,” Waddle told WalesOnCraic in November 2016. “It all happened such a long time ago now but every time I’m heading down to Kwik Save to get some [cigarettes], I always get some arsehole asking if I got my ball back.”
5) Gareth Southgate (Euro 1996 in England)
At Euro 1996, England faced Germany in the semi-final with the game going to penalties to decide the match with the score tied 1 to 1. During the penalty kick session, all five shooters from England and Germany scored sending it to sudden death. Gareth Southgate (now current manager for England’s national team) missed his penalty kick. Germany’s Andreas Möller would then score to seal the victory. Southgate received negative backlash from English fans and media. Southgate reflected on his penalty miss in an August 2020 interview with Prince William for the Daily Mirror: “I never felt anger actually. I just felt regret, remorse, responsibility. To a small degree that still lives with me, to have failed under pressure under that huge spotlight is hard, professionally, to take.”