The good, the bad & the ugly of Panenkas: Pirlo, Totti, Crouch…

Quick Reads

A Panenka penalty requires plenty of skill, daring and, most importantly, b*llocks – as the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Francesco Totti and Peter Crouch have all found out to varying degrees of success.

On June 20, 1976, Antonin Panenka gently chipped the ball into the back of the net to score the decisive spot-kick as Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in the European Championship final.

And we’re looking back at some of the best and worst attempts at recreating the penalty, which can make a player look effortlessly cool or hilariously foolish.

Antonin Panenka v West Germany

The original, the ultimate, the greatest. To pull out a Panenka for the deciding penalty of a major tournament is quite frankly scandalous, but it was not the first time the attacking midfielder had tried the trick.

Speaking to UEFA’s official website, Panenka said: “After each training session I used to stay behind after a game with our goalkeeper and take penalties – we would play for a bar of chocolate or a glass of beer.

“Since he was a very good goalkeeper it became an expensive proposition for me. So, sometimes before going to sleep I tried to think of ways of getting the better of him, to recoup my losses.

“I got the idea that if I delayed the kick and just lightly chipped it, a goalkeeper who dived to the corner of the goal could not jump back up into the air, and this became the basis of my philosophy.

“I started slowly to test it and apply it in practice. As a side effect I started to gain weight, because I was winning the bets. I started to use it in friendlies, in minor leagues, and eventually I perfected it so I used it in the main league as well. The culmination was when I used it at the European Championship.”

Andrea Pirlo v England

A modern classic. Joe Hart, with the preening arrogance of the biggest kid in the playground, tried his best to put off Pirlo, a man who by that stage had already won three league titles, two Champions Leagues and a World Cup, when England’s quarter-final with Italy at Euro 2012 went all the way to penalties.

Pirlo, with his typical grace and a hint of a smirk, left the goalkeeper sprawled on the floor, twisting like a distressed seal.

But the midfielder has remained understated about his moment of class, writing in his autobiography: “I made my decision right at the last second, when I saw Joe Hart, the England goalie, doing all sorts on his line.

“As I began my run up, I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do. And then he moved and my mind was made up. It was all impromptu, not premeditated. The only way I could see pushing my chances of scoring close to 100%.

“There was absolutely no showboating about it – that’s not my style.”

Andrea Pirlo v Barcelona

As much as we don’t like to say this, Pirlo didn’t always get it right.

To his credit, he at least saved his bloopers for when it didn’t really matter, having his bluff called by Jose Pinto in a friendly against Barcelona in 2010.

Zinedine Zidane v Italy

Possibly the most famous Panenka of all time? Carrying the hopes of a nation in the World Cup final in his last ever match before retiring and with Gianluigi Buffon standing between the ball and the goal, Zidane still had the chutzpah to chip the ball straight down the middle, creating even more suspense by hitting the underside of the bar.

Thank God that was the only drama he was involved in that night. Oh, right, yeah…

Francesco Totti v Lecce

Like Pirlo, it really hurts us to admit that Totti did not always get things right. Similarly, like Piro, he at least got it right when it mattered, with his Panenka against Edwin Van Der Sar helping Italy beat the Netherlands at Euro 2000.

Still, this effort against Lecce was a stinker. And Totti’s face says it all.

Peter Crouch v Jamaica

Oh, Crouchy. This was Crouchy at the height of his robot-dancing fame, Crouchy at his ‘but look at his England record’ best, Crouchy at his ‘well maybe we don’t need Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen’ level of heroism.

Then it was a reminder that England will always be doomed when it comes to penalties. He still scored a hat-trick though, and we still absolutely love him.

Gary Lineker v Brazil

Trailing Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record by one, Lineker was presented with the perfect opportunity to become his country’s joint-top goalscorer when the Three Lions were awarded a penalty against Brazil in 1992.

But in his final appearance at Wembley, Lineker completely fluffed the chance. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I saw the goalkeeper commit himself early and tried to lift the ball over him…but I scuffed up some grass as I shot and couldn’t get any height.”

Graham Taylor was much less apologetic, commenting: “You could argue that we played Brazil with 10 men.” Ouch.

Aaron Ramsey v Serbia

Ramsey was it in June 2017 when Wales drew 1-1 with Serbia.

Fittingly, Ramsey converted his penalty at the Rajko Mitic Stadium – the exact same ground where Antonin Panenka made the technique so famous in the first place.

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