Euro 2012: how to make penalty shootouts less horrible

Andrea Pirlo beats Joe Hart with a chipped penalty during England's defeat to Italy
Enough of this

In the wake of the England and Portugal penalty defeats in Euro 2012, The Times’s Simon Barnes has written an interesting piece about shootouts, and why they’re the antithesis of everything that football is about: stillness instead of movement, individuals instead of teams, expecting to score rather than expecting not to. It’s a really good piece for about two-thirds of its length, and then it sort of drifts off, because once he’s said that penalty shootouts are anti-football, he doesn’t give any alternatives.

(If you’re not a football fan, you should stop reading now and go straight to the comments to explain that you don’t care and that I should be writing about Barclays or something. Otherwise, carry on.)

I can’t help with suggestions for how to do away with penalties altogether. But my friend Kieran had a suggestion for a way of making them less intrusive and final and pressured. That suggestion (which he in turn got from a commenter on a Guardian live match report, I believe: if anyone has the link, I’ll add it) was simple: have the shootout at the end of 90 minutes, not 120.

The slightly more complicated bit was that you then play extra time anyway, but the team who have won the shootout go into the final 30 minutes with a half-goal advantage. The other team would therefore have to attack, but if they scored, they’d be winning. Essentially, in the last half hour, there could never be a draw, so one team or other would have to attack or face losing. The dull, cagey, waiting-for-the-whistle football of most extra-time periods would, presumably, be a thing of the past.

I honestly can’t see a drawback to this idea: teams playing for penalties would still have to negotiate 120 minutes of football without conceding, so it would give no more incentive to play boringly. More importantly, it would take the horrible pressure off footballers, make penalties less of a lottery, and encourage more attacking football in the last period. What do you guys think?


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