No More Penalty Shootouts – Do This Instead

England are rubbish at penalties and have lost 6 out of 7 shootouts in major competitions, as well as 1 out of 1 in some minor competition. This isn’t just bad luck. There is good evidence that countries that do better in shootouts are those whose populations have a more collectivist nature, whereas we English like to point fingers and blame whoever we can. The national sport isn’t really football, it’s taking the piss. So the Ashleys, Cole and Young, have had abuse on Twitter for their misses, even though the mainstream press have been kinder than they used to be. So in shootouts, where psychology and mental strength play a big part – at least as big as technique – we English will always be at a disadvantage, because on average the penalty takers will be more scared of missing, knowing that they’ll be vilified by a rabid public, and sometimes media.

It’s also a fact that younger players on average do better than older players in shootouts. I put this down to the weight of expectation being lower. Nobody told Pirlo about that one, though.

Sooner or later England will win another shootout just by getting lucky, or else by playing against a country even less collectively minded than we are (though I’m struggling to think of one). But we’ll never win a majority of them, so we need an alternative.

Have you seen any of these men acting suspiciously?

I like the shootout as a spectacle, especially when watching as a neutral, but it does have its drawbacks – the main one being that it puts all the responsibility on individuals, and football is supposed to be a team game. Fifa have already tried alternatives such as the golden and silver goals, but they’ve proved unpopular, despite being closer to a real football situation. Part of the problem with the golden and silver goals is that they change the way teams play, because they become more scared of conceding and may still want to play for penalties, so at least one team gets very defensive – if they weren’t already. Either way it’s not often much of a spectacle. So what else is there?

Replays are really the ideal football solution – there’s no point playing defensively if you know that unless you score a proper goal during play you’ll never win. Unfortunately replays are impractical in tournaments, so we can rule that out.

But if it’s going to be better than penalties it needs to follow some rules:

  • It needs to be a ‘football’ solution – so no coin tossing, rock-scissors-paper, spoof or arm wrestling
  • It should involve the team rather than individuals – so no penalty variations, like the shootouts they used to have in the NASL back in the 1970s, where a player started from the 35-yard line and had five seconds to run forward and beat the keeper (who could move where he liked) in a one-on-one
  • It shouldn’t tire players out so much that they are affected in their following match – so no endless playing on for period after period of extra time until someone is finally ahead at the end of a period
  • It shouldn’t cause teams to play differently and in particular be more defensive – which penalties often does – so no counting numbers of corners, for example, and no taking the penalties before the match starts; that has been suggested, but could just encourage one team to be ultra-defensive if they knew they’d already won the shootout. No counting shots or shots on target either – too difficult to be sure that a shot count was right when a shot can be confused with a cross, or get blocked before it goes anywhere, and if shots get deflected onto or off target what does that count as?
  • It shouldn’t be subjective – so no going on numbers of yellow cards or free kicks, that are subject to the whims of the officials (this rules out corners as well; have you ever seen a match where the ref didn’t get at least one corner decision wrong?)
  • It shouldn’t be affected by what has happened in previous games, each match should be complete in itself – so no counting any stats from previous matches in the tournament or elsewhere

I’ve ruled out most things, but there is one left: count the number of times teams hit the woodwork. If the scores are level at the end of 90 minutes or extra time, then the team that has hit the post or bar the most times in the match wins.

This has many advantages over other solutions, including penalties:

  • It involves the whole team
  • It happens anyway as part of the game
  • No one is trying to do it over scoring
  • It’s easy to count (let the fourth official do it)
  • No one is going to change the way they play, either individually or as a team, except possibly to attack a bit more – which can only be good
  • There’s no point hanging on for 90 minutes hoping to get lucky
  • It signifies almost scoring, so it seems logical to decide matches on something that is almost a goal rather than something that is nothing to do with goals
  • It’s very unlikely you’ll have a match where neither team hits the woodwork, so you’re more than likely to get a result

I would only count hits in the match taking place, though it might be that you could encourage attacking play throughout a tournament by counting those from previous matches too. But that could also mean that a team was so far ahead on woodwork hits at the start of a game that they might think it worth playing for a draw, which negates the benefit.

Of course you could still end up with a draw on woodwork hits, so I’d suggest you then do go to penalties as the next best option, but with a difference – make everyone in the team take one. That way any blame is shared round more equally and teams need to have every player capable of making a contribution.

Right, that’s that sorted. Anything else Fifa need sorting?

By the way, I used this website for some research:    

And further by the way, none of this will do England any good until they get better at football, but one thing at a time.

Follow me on Twitter: @AngryOfN5


15 thoughts on “No More Penalty Shootouts – Do This Instead

  1. Does this mean that if they had been tied on penalties then Ashley Young’s would have been the winner – belted it off the cross bar!

  2. Simple answer. Where there is the possibility that a match could go to penalties, start the game 30 minutes earlier and have the penalty shoot out BEFORE the game. That way the losing team will have to go out to win the game.

    As you say, though, it wouldn’t have helped England on Sunday nor any of the previous occasions in which they’ve lost a penalty shoot out.

  3. I think they shud keep it as it is but instead have all 11 players from each team take a penalty before deciding the winner and loser, and if deadlocked its decided sudden death as usual, that way it is still a team effort and no blame can be heaped on individuals.

  4. I think you copied this idea from John motson?!?
    I heard him say this years ago!
    Either way, it is the most logical idea.
    Another idea would be to play an additional 5 mins with 3 less players on the field. If no goal then 5 more mins with 2 more taken off. Repeat with 1 more off. So you go from 11v11 to 8v8 to 6v6 to 5v5.
    I’ve seen this done indoor. Spectators love it and it’s far more ‘gamelike’ than a pk shootout!

  5. if you’re going to end up going to penalties anyway, I’d rather see them taken before the game. At least there will be one team attacking to make sure they don’t lose. Also, yes, all 11 players should take a penalty.

  6. A bit like mike’s suggestion: play the extra 30 minutes, but every 5 minutes each team loses a player. Doesn’t help fatigue levels by any means, but opens up the extra- time to be far more exciting and tactically intriguing. At the end of 30 minutes the team with most attempts on target wins. Frantic end to end stuff is guarenteed. Seen it happen at a few schools competitions. Far more interesting.

  7. I think the players wives and girlfriends should take the penalties. If they are gay then let their boyfriends take them. If in Iran they must be careful though because a gay penalty taker will possibly be executed.
    Another point is the Italians by eating lots of pasta have great stamina during their games. The English players having sausages, bacon and eggs are just about alive at the end of a game.

  8. Face the truth – england were useless and will remain useless as long as they have the attitude of blaming all and sundry for thier shortcomings – ah-la wenger- thepitch,the ref ,etc. Look at the teams that progressed ,they have a bit of mystery about them,like a unknown entity. the brits hovever have no hidden talents,we all know what pie face can do ,what gerrads about ,what cole and young can do, etc.

  9. Ok, every five minutes take off a player from each team.50 minutes after extra time it would have been Hart vs Buffon in the whole pitch. It would feel like a poker match when the people get whittled down and the tactics change.

    Sure some people would get knackered, but there would only be a few of them. But it would be worth it to see the best team score the winner.

  10. If you are likely to end up with penalties anyway I do not see any advantage with this idea. Yes, teams do hit the woodwork, sometimes two or three a game, but there are an awful lot that don’t.
    I am much more in favour of reducing the number of player per each 15 mins of extra time. That involves the coaches having some influence on tactics – balance of forwards to defenders, speed over fitness, etc. – and it is still a team game.
    First 15 mins played to the end with 9 players each side. No subs. Still a draw, then …
    Next 15 mins … ditto …. with 7 players each. …ditto … ditto …
    Final extra time, ‘golden goal’ with only 5 each side.
    Exciting? I think so. Draining on the players who Play the extra time? Yes, but that is what squads are for, and what coaches will have to take into account.

  11. I don’t know why you would reward bad shots (which shots off the post are a lot of the time), and use them to decide a match when you consider that a great shot under huge pressure (penalties) is a bad way to decide a match.

    Penalties are simple, yet profoundly difficult in a shoot-out. They test technical skill and the mental ability to execute that skill under intense pressure. Everyone knows that the average English Footballer is technically weaker than their continental counterparts, so is it any surprise that we so often fail in what is the ultimate technical skill (the ability to manipulate a stationary ball past a goalkeeper from the penalty spot)? England fail mentally at shoot-outs largely because our footballers do not have the technical skill to feel confident executing such a simple task. How many English Footballers have the technical skill to feel confident doing what Pirlo did? How many English Footballers EVER have had the technical skill to feel confident doing that?

    I would have no problem making all 11 (including the ‘keepers) take penalties. But penalties are a wonderful way to decide a game that otherwise might go on all-night. There is nothing random about it, as some would have you believe. Shots against the post are a completely random way of deciding a game. We could all imagine a game where one team dominates completely, forces the opposition keeper into save after save after save, takes shot after shot, and yet loses because the opposition took one miscued shot and hit the post. Now that IS random.

    Penalties are great.

  12. I agree with Paul, I think penalties are the best way to decide the game and the most exciting. (And I think the excitement factor is important). Some level of individual responsibility always comes in at some point when any game is won or lost. I would say ask Columbian defender Andreas Escobar about that, but you can’t. He dead. Penalties are fascinating because they are actually easy. The best takers are the ones that know that it’s easy, it’s only the context and the pressure that makes them hard. I think the article does well to swerve the fallacy that penalties are a lottery, but I don’t see how an individual missing a penalty negates the game’s collective anymore than a striker missing an open goal or a defender giving away a needless penalty in normal time. Or even a player missing a penalty in normal time, a la Bergkamp 99.

  13. Absolute ridiculous idea! What if a team hits the woodwork twice in five minutes and goes defensive, therefore killing the game? What if some one rockets the ball, destined for the top corner and the keeper makes an unbelievable save and tips it on to the post, are you going to punish him for that? Hitting the post is not nearly scoring, it has missed unless it goes over the line via the woodwork. The penalty shoot out is harsh but fair solution, neither team should have allowed it to go to 120 minutes without taking an advantage. Whoever wrote this is an idiot and I seriously hope they never get anywhere near a serious role within the FIFA organisation.

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