This past week the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, climbed out from under his rock and shared an opinion about the sport he oversees. He decided it's time to fix how championship games are decided, claiming penalty kicks are no longer a good way to decide a winner. Hey Sepp, welcome to the majority.
Blatter has claimed he is forming a committee to figure out how to solve the penalty kick shootout issue by 2014.
Well, why not get started now and change the rule for the upcoming Euro '12 tournament? If I was the boss, here is what I would tell the teams to get ready for: No more penalty kicks. Teams play until someone scores.
The way it works now, the teams play 30 extra minutes of silver goal, meaning after a goal is scored the game continues, giving the trailing team a chance to tie it up again. If the game is tied after the extra 30 minutes (120 total minutes of soccer) the players on the field are picked to take five penalty kicks.
I think the Silver Goal idea should remain for the opening 30 minutes of extra time. After that they should have Golden Goal until someone scores.
Obviously, creativity is paramount when asking athletes to perform for an unknown amount of time. Players will be tired and risking injury if they play for hours. However, there are some ways around this issue.
After 120 minutes:
Each team gets an extra substitution. Teams are allowed only 3 substitutions during a game, this would give them one extra to use, getting more fresh players on the field. Teams should also have their rosters expanded by two more players, giving the coaches more options off their bench. A team is allowed 18 players on their roster. So now the coach would have extra options for substitutions.
After 150 minutes:
One more player is added to the roster, and teams get one extra substitution, giving them five total.
After 180 minutes:
Teams play 9 versus 9 instead of 11 vs. 11. This might be the most aggressive change; however, right now penalty kicks are one-on-one games, which is ridiculous.
NCAA field hockey has instituted an 8 vs. 8 overtime (they play 11 vs. 11 in regular time), and frankly it makes for a much better game (yes, I have attended NCAA field hockey games). Skill players have space to work and scoring opportunities are much easier to get, making the game more exciting.
The other rule change I would add at this point is that you can sub in a player who has already been taken out of the game. The rules state that no player that is subbed out can return to the game. After three hours of soccer, I think that rule could go away.
After 210 minutes:
8 versus 8 and teams get 2 more substitutions, giving them 7 total substitutions and players may still re-enter the game.
From this time period on teams should get an extra substitution every 15 minutes. The teams continue to play 8 vs. 8 until someone scores or all the players walk off the field out of frustration.
The worst part of penalty kicks is that it has a direct affect on how the game is played. Coaches begin to strategize with 30 minutes left in regular time for penalty kicks. Many underdogs will use penalty kicks as a means to victory; instead of playing soccer, they play the waiting game, resulting in defensive and boring soccer.
Many underdogs will use penalty kicks as a means to victory; instead of playing soccer, they play the waiting game, resulting in defensive and boring soccer.
Forcing teams to play until someone scores challenges the coaches to be smart about how they manage their players, both on the field and the bench. Do you take Wayne Rooney off for a 20-minute breather? Do you allow Xavi a 10-minute break after all his midfield wizardry?
People love hockey's sudden death, as it makes every moment exciting and stressful. Sometimes NHL playoff games go on for three extra periods, but normally teams score early because they are attacking. Sitting back defensively only invites a team to score. The other difference between sports like basketball and hockey allowing their game to go until there is a winner is substitutions. Hockey and basketball players can be subbed freely, soccer players cannot.
Would playing sudden death during every elimination game wear out the world's best players? Probably. Would it maybe make sense to have penalty kicks in every game except for the championship game? Sure. Maybe that's the solution that makes everyone happy. Should FIFA play with the idea of doing an MLS-style shootout where a player dribbles from 35 yards out and attempts to score in 5 seconds? Maybe, but hopefully not.
All I know is that teams have figured out how to use penalty kicks to their advantage. They are not a fair way to decide who is the best team in the world.
They don't have a putting contest after a tie in the Masters.
They wouldn't have a parallel parking contest if there was a tie in the Indy 500.
The NBA doesn't have a one-on-one tournament after a tie game.
Penalty kicks make no sense either. Here's hoping Sepp and his committee figure out a way to make the game better.
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
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