Toppo’s Top Tens – Penalties

This week’s Toppo’s Top Ten examines what are arguably every Englishman’s worst nightmare – penalties.

Penalty kicks are a true test of an player’s nerve, whether it’s during 90 minutes or in a shootout. The prospect of running up and slamming the ball into the net from 12 yards seems easy, but rarely is in a match situation. The stakes are high and the hopes of team mates and fans rest squarely on the kicker’s shoulders. This week’s top ten looks at ten of the best, it could be for the circumstances in which they were taken or the execution of the spot-kick, either way they’re all great efforts.

10: Joe Hart – England v Sweden, European Under-21 Championships semi-final 2009

The Under 21’s know how to take penalties as they beat hosts Sweden in a shootout to reach the Euro U-21 Championships final in 2009. 2-2 after 120 minutes of football, James Milner did his best David Beckham impression, slipping and sending England’s first kick into orbit, then England goalie Joe Hart saved from Marcus Berg to keep it 0-0.

Hart then placed the ball on the spot and prepared to take England’s second. With England’s previous history of penalties the thought of a goalkeeper taking one would send shivers up the spine of the most nerveless Three Lions fan. However Hart made no mistake, thumping the ball high into the middle of the net.  Not bad at all for a ‘keeper. (It’s 1:50 in)

9: Gary Lineker – England v Cameroon World Cup Quarter-Final 1990

At Italia ’90 England faced Cameroon for a place in the semi-finals and got the fright of their lives. Having taken the lead through a David Platt header, it all went wrong in the second half the unfancied Africans fought back, taking a 2-1 lead and looking as if they would be the first team from the continent to reach the last four.

In the 82nd minute Gary Lineker was fouled in the box and England had a penalty. Under huge pressure Lineker himself took it, sent the ‘keeper the wrong way and at 2-2, the game went into extra-time.

In the first half of extra-time Lineker was played through on goal from a fine through ball from Paul Gascoigne. As he entered the penalty area he was brought down by the goalkeeper and England had a second spot-kick. Up stepped Lineker again to make it 3-2 to the Three Lions and send them into a semi-final showdown with West Germany.

8: Roberto Baggio – Italy v Chile, World Cup Group Stages 1998

Roberto Baggio famously missed the last penalty of the 1994 World Cup Final which handed the title to Brazil, and in Italy’s next game in the finals four years later he found himself taking another spot-kick. The striker earned the penalty in the 85th minute with the Italians 2-1 down to Chile and after doing so put his hands on his knees, no doubt feeling emotional in the moment. Team-mate Enrico Chiesa walked over to Baggio, almost consoling him.

Baggio stepped forward, dispatching the penalty firmly into the bottom corner and calmly jogged back to the centre circle with a low-key celebration. Afterwards he said ”I killed the ghost of 1994 when I scored that penalty.” Hats off to him for doing so too.

7: Zinedine Zidane – France v Italy, World Cup Final 2006

To attempt a Panenka penalty in any given football match is risky enough, let alone doing it on the biggest stage of all in the World Cup Final. Ultimately the 2006 affair ended on a sour note for France as they were to lose on penalties to the Italians but also for Zinedine Zidane, foolishly headbutting his way to a red card in his final match as a professional footballer.

However it began well for Zizou and Les Bleus as they took the lead thanks to a penalty from their talisman. Just five minutes had gone when Florent Malouda was bundled over in the penalty area and a spot-kick was awarded. With billions watching around the world and faced with one of the best goalkeepers in the game, Zidane took a short run up and chipped it in off the crossbar. It certainly got John Motson excited in the BBC commentary box.

6: Diego Maradona – Argentina v Italy, World Cup Semi-Final 1990

The 1990 World Cup semi-finals pitted hosts Italy against defending champions Argentina with a partisan home crowd desperate to see their side reach the final. The match was played in Napoli – where Maradona was playing his club football at the time.

Toto Squillaci put Italy in front seventeen minutes in, Claudio Caniggia equalised midway through the second half and that’s how the game remained after 90 minutes plus extra-time – so penalties would decide the outcome. Both teams scored their first three spot-kicks until Roberto Donadoni’s was saved.

Maradona, having missed with an awful penalty against Yugoslavia a few days earlier, strode forward to try to put Argentina 4-3 up, which he did with great composure. He then ran off in celebration, hugging one of the Argentine technical staff – an odd reaction considering the shootout was still going and his team had not won yet. Sergio Goycochea made sure they did though by saving Italy’s next spot-kick to leave home fans heartbroken and the Argentines overjoyed – Maradona especially. (See it at 5 minutes 20 seconds in)

5: Julian Dicks – West Ham United v Manchester United, Premier League 1996

This penalty is an absolute thunderbolt. Julian Dicks was a stalwart of West Ham’s backline during the 1990’s and whilst he might not have been the most technically gifted of English left-backs at the time, he could hit a great spot-kick – as proven with this effort against Manchester United at Upton Park.,

Faced with the great Peter Schmeichel, Dicks runs up and unleashes a rocket into the top left-hand corner. Sky Sports measured the strike at 95mph – Schmeichel nowhere near it. (You can see it 23 seconds in)

4: Antonin Panenka – Czechoslovakia v West Germany, European Championship Final 1976

The original chipped penalty. Czechoslovakia’s Antonin Panenka deserves great credit for this for the audacity of the spot-kick. He and his Czech team-mates were written-off up against the World and European champions West Germany in the 1976 European Championship final but they took their more illustrious opponents to a penalty shootout.

Panenka stepped forward to take the spot-kick which could win the game for the Czechs. With the pressure on and faced with one of the game’s best goalkeepers in Sepp Maier most players would’ve gone for a firm strike either side of the ‘keeper. Instead Panenka approached the ball and dinked it calmly into the middle of the goal, Maier diving out of the way – fooled by Panenka’s effort. A tough penalty to hit at the best of times but to do it under those circumstances made it even better. Many have tried to copy it, some more successful than others – get it wrong and you look like an idiot.

Panenka’s opportunism meant his nation became Champions of Europe and the Germans lost on penalties. How good does that sound?

3: Stuart Pearce – England v Spain, European Championship Quarter-Final 1996

This penalty makes the top three for penalty itself, the context in which it was taken and the celebration afterwards. In the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup Pearce missed his spot-kick as England lost in a penalty shootout to West Germany. Six years later though, the left-back had the chance to make amends.

England’s Euro ’96 quarter-final against Spain at Wembley ended 0-0 after extra time and penalties would decide the outcome. Alan Shearer and David Platt put England 2-1 ahead, before Pearce walked forward to take England’s third. A nervous moment for Pearce himself and the England fans – praying he wouldn’t miss again. They had nothing to worry about as Pearce ran up and thumped the penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.

The relief was palpable and Pearce’s reaction brilliant. His fist-pumping, contorted face celebration became an iconic image of the tournament and England fans felt the relief with him from the stands. It never fails to make you smile.

2: Kevin Pressman – Sheffield Wednesday v Wolverhampton Wanderers, FA Cup fourth-round replay 1995

This penalty is one my favourites. On these shores the sight of a goalkeeper taking a spot-kick is an extremely rare one – it’s the sort of thing we associate with eccentric South American stoppers. However if more keepers took penalties like Kevin Pressman then we would love it.

In an FA Cup fourth-round replay at Molineux, Pressman’s Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves were still tied after another 120 minutes of football and the match went to penalties. Pressman himself stepped up to take Wednesday’s third with the chance of putting The Owls 3-0 up, having just done his job saving Wolves’ previous one.

The penalty is perfect – an unstoppable strike which finds the net beautifully, as close as you could get between the post and crossbar. Basically he just runs up and takes a goal-kick into the top corner. (You can see it at 1 minute 30 seconds in)

1: Ezequiel Calvente – Spain v Italy, European Under 19 Championship Group Stages 2010

This penalty is number one thanks to the audacity, skill and execution from the taker. Spanish players nowadays are famed for their excellent technical ability and Ezequiel Calvente is no different with this innovative effort during Spain’s 3-0 victory over Italy in the Euro U-19 Championships last year.

Calvente had come off the bench and in the 57th minute his side won a penalty. He put the ball on the spot and prepared to take the penalty as normal, but what happened next was unbelievable. With a kind of switch-hit shot, Calvente looks as if he’s going to shoot with his right foot before putting the ball in the net with his standing left foot. The keeper goes the wrong way and Calvente’s risk pays off – a brilliant penalty you have to watch several times to see how he did it.

And finally…..

Johan Cruyff and Jesper Olsen – Ajax v Helmand Sport, Eredivisie 1982

As we’ve seen with Panenka and Calvente, innovation when taking a penalty can fool the goalkeeper and leave fans amazed. In 1982 the great Johan Cruyff and Danish midfielder Jesper Olsen came up with a creative way of converting a penalty for Ajax against Helmand Sport.

Cruyff places the ball on the spot, quickly knocks it to the left where the on-rushing Olsen arrives. He taps it back to Cruyff who then puts it in the net. The bemused goalkeeper comes out of his goal to stop it but is powerless to, meaning Cruyff and Olsen score with an ingenious way of penalty-taking.

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