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TOP 10 most famous penalties in football

07 Nov 2023

TOP 10 Most Famous Penalties in Football – Including Tips on How to Take and Save Them

They say it can't be saved, only poorly taken. This old saying is often associated with penalty kicks. But who can take the best penalty? Is there a "recipe" for a successful penalty kick? And what tricks can help you save a penalty? We'll explore all of this in our article today.

A penalty kick is often one of the most thrilling moments in football, as it can frequently decide the outcome of a match. Before we revisit some of the key penalty moments, let's briefly remind ourselves of how penalty kicks come about.

A Quick Refresher: How Do Penalty Kicks Work in Football?

When you're lining up for a penalty kick and there isn't a chilled pint waiting for you, you know it's serious business. A penalty kick is a special football situation that follows a serious rule infringement committed by a team near their own goal. Such infringements include kicking or pushing an opponent, spitting, holding, or deliberately handling the ball. The penalty kick itself unfolds as follows:

  • The executor, the player taking the penalty, stands on the spot 11 meters from the goal.
  • The goalkeeper moves along the goal line, facing the shooter, and tries to catch or deflect the ball.
  • Other players must be outside the penalty area and 10 meters from the executor.

Then the whistle blows, and it's game on. The player runs up and shoots. Once the ball is touched, the goalkeeper can leave the goal line, and other players can enter the penalty area.

The most common situations in which a penalty can occur

  • Defensive mistake: In the case of a serious offense by the defense inside their penalty area.
  • Handball: If a player uses their hand to block the ball inside their penalty area.
  • Foul on a player: In the event of a foul on a player who is in a good scoring position.
  • Penalty shootout: Typically, if there is no clear winner even after extra time, a penalty shootout occurs. The team that scores more goals from 5 attempts wins.

Guide on how to take the perfect penalty? It exists!

From the analysis of video recordings, it appears that the ideally placed penalty is half a meter below the crossbar and half a meter from the post. It doesn't matter if it's on the left or right side. The shooter measures their run-up to be 5 to 6 steps, approaches the ball from the edge of the penalty area at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees, and kicks the ball at a speed of at least 104 km/h. Piece of cake, right?

But we also have a few tips that you can apply more easily in practice. An analysis of penalties from World Cups, European Championships, and Champions League matches has shown that it pays off to wait a second before the kick. Players who started their run-up within 0.2 seconds of the whistle converted penalties in 57% of cases. Those who started running a second later converted penalties in over 80% of cases.

And if you score and there are more penalties awaiting your team, feel free to celebrate. Demonstrating joy from scoring correlates with a reduced likelihood that your opponent will convert the subsequent penalty. At the same time, you also have a higher chance of winning overall.

Goalkeeper's and other team members' roles during a penalty

All players should have the necessary skills, an effective strategy, and their emotions under control. However, that's easier said than done. The goalkeeper's main role is to stop the executor's attempt. They must anticipate the direction and power of the shot, have well-trained reflexes, and ideally, have an understanding of the statistics and playing style of the opposing player. The key role of the executor is to stay calm and keep a clear head. They must choose the right direction and shooting technique to make it difficult for the goalkeeper to save. Other players can support the executor by trying to distract the goalkeeper outside the penalty area or by finding an optimal position for the next play.

How the goalkeeper whipped himself, or The History of Penalties in Football

During a penalty kick, the scales are tipped in favor of the shooter. Therefore, it's surprising that the penalty itself was actually invented by a goalkeeper. William McCrum, a player for Milford FC and a member of the Irish Football Association, wanted to punish footballers who fouled near their own goal, so the penalty was introduced into the official rules on June 2, 1891. Initially, it could be taken from anywhere 11 meters from the goal line, and the goalkeeper could rush out against the shooter up to a certain distance. However, over the years, the rules were refined and adjusted until they reached their current form.

Top 10 best penalties of all time

And now let's take a little trip down memory lane to remember some of the most famous shots in football history. We'll go more or less chronologically, but there wouldn't be much debate about the first place with us.

  • Antonín Panenka (Czechoslovakia) at the 1976 European Championship. Yes, we admit. We might be a bit influenced by the country of origin. But what's more, when they name the style of penalty kick after you? Panenka became famous for his ingenious slow shot, arching into the center of the goal back in 1976. He surprised German goalkeeper Sepp Maier in the European Championship final, thus securing the European Championship title for Czechoslovakia.
  • Andreas Brehme (Germany) at the 1990 World Cup. In the 85th minute of the match, Germany against Argentina, tension was at its peak. Then, on the officially first championship recorded in HDTV quality, left-back Andreas Brehme scored a penalty, thus securing the World Cup title for Germany. The Germans celebrated their third triumph in the FIFA World Cup.
  • Roberto Baggio (Italy) at the 1994 World Cup. The winner of the 15th World Cup in the history of football was also decided by a penalty. In the final shootout against Brazil, Roberto Baggio missed the decisive penalty kick. Brazil thus won the title, and Italy had to settle for the silver medals. The Italian striker later described this moment as the worst in his career.
  • Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands) at the 1998 World Cup. Yes, we mean exactly that quarter-final of the World Cup in France, when the Dutch striker outplayed the Argentine defense. Dennis Bergkamp played with the opponent's defender in the last minute of the match and skillfully sent the ball straight into the top corner of the goal. The Netherlands advanced to the semifinals, where the Dutchman shone again. His penalty decided the victory against Argentina.
  • David Beckham (Manchester United) in the Champions League in 2001. In the 2000/01 season, David Beckham recorded the most assists - he helped with a total of 12 goals. He also demonstrated precisely aimed shots in a match that many still consider the most famous turnaround in football history. During extra time in the Champions League final, Manchester United players showed unprecedented determination against Bayern Munich and turned the score in less than 2 minutes. Allegedly, at that time, Bayern-colored ribbons were already attached to the trophy, so the UEFA secretary had to change them hastily.
  • Zinédine Zidane (France) at the 2006 World Cup. The best players of the 2006 World Cup were Zinédine Zidane, Fabio Cannavaro, and Andrea Pirlo. And it was the first of those names that scored decisively in a penalty shootout against Italy. In the style of a Panenka. But it was his last game, and he literally threw himself headlong into the culmination of his football career. After a verbal altercation, he headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest and was subsequently sent off.
  • Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) in the Champions League in 2016. Sergio Ramos, one of the best football defenders in the world, triumphed in the UEFA Champions League several times. In 2014, he opened the scoring on Bayern Munich's pitch, helping Real Madrid win 4-0. Two years later, he scored the crucial goal in the final match against Atlético Madrid, helping Real Madrid win the title.
  • Lionel Messi (Argentina) at the 2016 Copa America. Messi scored the crucial penalty in the shootout against Colombia, helping Argentina advance. However, his team did not ultimately win the title. The final, in which Argentina fought against Chile, ended 0-0, and the winner was decided by penalties. However, Messi missed the first penalty at the stadium in East Rutherford, and after the match, he announced his retirement. Fortunately, the seven-time holder of the Ballon d'Or soon reversed his decision.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) in the Champions League in 2016. The 2016 Champions League final was also decided by penalties. Two rivals from the capital of Spain faced each other, and it was Real Madrid who won their eleventh Champions League title. They defeated Atlético Madrid players on penalties 5-3. At that time, Ronaldo wanted to go fifth in line. "I had the idea that I would score the winning goal in the penalty shootout," he said. And that's exactly what happened. In the penultimate series, Juanfran from Atlético hit the post, allowing Ronaldo to decide the match.
  • Joonas Jokinen (Finland) in a junior Swiss Cup match between FC Baar and Baar Sempach. The Helsinki native became famous for his unconventional execution of a penalty as a representative of the country's under-16 team. His shot included a fabulous backward somersault. The video of the kick naturally spread throughout the online world, turning the young Finn into an internet star.

Some footballers celebrate a scored goal with a somersault (hello Miroslav Klose), but performing a somersault right after a penalty kick requires a great deal of skill.

Who are the best penalty shooters?

The ranking of individual footballers naturally changes with the matches played and penalties (not) scored. In the ranking, Cristiano Ronaldo would certainly not be missing with a success rate currently over 83%. Matt Le Tissier can boast an even more impressive number, currently at 98%. However, he has taken more than two-thirds fewer penalty kicks than the Portuguese superstar. Among the best penalty kickers of all time, you would certainly also find Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli, Arturo Vidal, Giuseppe Rossi, Marco van Basten, Alan Shearer, Steven Gerrard, or Frank Lampard.

Goalkeeper Tip: A few psychological tricks can help you catch a penalty.

The foundation is, of course, having quality goalkeeper gloves. Ones that won't easily wear out and lose their grip after the first match. First-rate goalkeeper gloves will provide you not only with the necessary protection and safety but also contribute to better results. If you want gloves fine-tuned to the last detail, opt for custom-made gloves. We'll make you a pair tailored precisely to your measurements, so you'll even stop the most elusive penalties.

Do you have the gear? Great. So when you go to save a penalty, stand approximately 10 centimeters off the center of the goal. At least that's the advice derived from scientific research on penalty kicks. A statistically significant number of players tend to aim for the side with more space. Moreover, if you raise your hands above your head before the penalty, the shooter will automatically perceive you as taller, thereby slightly increasing your chances of a successful save.

Someone is saving penalties, someone is kicking themselves for not opting for BU1 gloves. Choosing the best ones will be made easier with the article How to Choose Goalkeeper Gloves.

And if you like to have some fun, feel free to try to distract your opponent before the kick. Analysis of penalty kicks from the World Cup and European Championships between 1984 and 2012 suggests that when the goalkeeper tries to unsettle the shooter with their movements, their shots tend to aim slightly closer to the center on average and less frequently end up in the goal. Just be careful not to end up like Hartford goalkeeper Nenad Cudic, who pulled off several gymnastic stunts in the goal before the penalty. However, his plan didn't work out. Stony Brook's shooter not only confidently placed the ball into the goal but also returned the favor right after the goal – he also showcased a few successful stunts to the goalkeeper.

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