Penalty Kicks? Are You Kidding Me?

The 2006 World Cup winner was decided based on penalty kicks. After 90 minutes of regulation play and an additional 30 minutes of overtime failed to provide a victor in a match of 11 on 11, the masterminds of FIFA who govern this sport, in their infinite wisdom, feel that a once-every-four-years event should be decided on penalty kicks. That's right, what is arguably the most sacred sports trophy on the planet was awarded based on a series of one-on-one matches, in which the goalie failed to block a single shot. Italy won, no thanks to their goalie, but rather to an errant shot by one of France's kickers.

Now lets compare this with today's Chicago White Sox versus Boston Red Sox baseball game. Nothing really at stake in the grand scheme of things, just 1 of 162 regular season games. Chicago won it in the bottom of the 19th inning.

Don't you think if there was going to be a time and a place to invoke an artificial conclusion to a game, it would be on a meaningless regular season baseball game? Don't you think if there was a time to allow players to play until exhaustion, it would be in the final match of a tournament that only takes place once every four years?!

Imagine if the Super Bowl was decided by field goal kickers alternating attempts from the 35 yard line? Imagine if the World Series, after a couple obligatory extra innings, was determined by a Home Run Derby contest?

It's bad enough the World Cup was marred by excessive penalties and more dives than a Greg Louganis swimathon, but the fact that the game doesn't make accomodations to allow for a sudden-death (i.e. "Golden Goal") overtime period beyond the full 30-minute overtime is ridiculous. Allow for an extra substitution, award a couple timeouts if you need to, but to allow just a couple one-on-one attempts -- at which the goalie clearly has little hope of stuffing the kicker -- by a fraction of the two dozen men involved in the previous 2 hours of play is assinine.

If baseball -- a sport with more problems than actors in Italian soccer -- can allow for a regular season meaningless game to reach a natural conclusion after 19 innings of play, then the World Cup should allow players to play and for the winner to be determined through regular play and not an artificial abridgement of the game.


Criscipline said...

Wow, I didn't know any of that. So basically the illustrious World Cup wasn't one by any single team but rather a couple key players. Interesting result. That's silly.

Maarten said...


I don't really follow soccer or the punditry around it, but I do wonder if there won't be lots of discussion about raising the scoring rate.

Volokh sez:
In my view, a far preferable solution is to require the teams to play until one scores a "sudden death" goal, as is done in the National Hockey League playoffs. The argument against this approach is that the game might go on on interminably, exhausting the players and hurting the winning team in the next round.