European Championship Stories: 1976 – The Birth Of The Penalty Shoot-Out

It has been suggested more than once that the inner beauty of football is to be found in its mixture of simplicity and complexity. For the game to get under your skin in the first place isn’t difficult but, for all the analysis of tactics and formations which seems occasionally to dominate all other discussion of matches in themselves, football remains enchantingly out of reach. What we can say, however, is that the most celebrated moments in the history of game have involved extraordinary luck, brilliant skill, intuitiveness, improvisation or occasionally even a little sang froid, and somewhere between this assortment we find a part of the culture of the game that has grown with the televising of the game – the penalty shoot-out. The origins of this peculiarly exquisite form of torture are not easy to define. The question of how to end a match that has ended in a draw but requires a winner is, of course, as old as the game itself. For league matches, this has never been a major issue. From the very first day’s Football League fixtures in September 1888, the answer was simple – award one point to each team involved in a drawn match – and the first drawn League match was played out between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa on that first weekend. For knock-out football, however, things were different...

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