Sunday, June 29, 2014

Shoot-outs: rights, wrongs, solutions

After watching one this morning, here is a fairly brief version of what I think about penalty shoot-outs in football. If I'm honest, I don't think much of them.

1. They're high drama. It's hard to deny this.
2. They're over quickly (good for TV companies I guess)
3. They give goalkeepers a rare opportunity to become heroes.

1. They're nothing like the actual game of football - that's my biggest problem with them
2. The burden placed on one player is too great
3. Play before the shoot-out is adversely affected (both teams are happy to "play for penalties")
4. They happen too often, and in the biggest tournaments (it's quite hard to win the World Cup without resorting to one somewhere along the way)
5. Players are expected to score - part of the beauty of football is that goals come at a premium.

Sensible, feasible solutions:

1. Hold the shoot-out before extra time, with the outcome of the shoot-out coming into play only if the scores are level after extra time. That should solve number 3 in the "bad" section above, as one team will be forced to attack. It also partially solves number 2, as a player who misses a penalty has a chance to make amends in extra time. It won't solve number 4 - you'll actually get more shoot-outs - but I'm OK with that as the shoot-out wouldn't directly decide the game. If they ever do change the current system, which isn't that likely in the near future, I think this is the method they'll employ.

2. Extend extra time. They're highly-paid professional athletes. Why do they have to stop playing football (as I know it) after 120 minutes? Why not continue for additional 30 or even 60 if necessary, and perhaps allow more subs in that case? With the prospect of penalties pushed back, simply playing additional extra periods should solve both 3 and 4 in the "bad" section.

3. Remove players from each side at regular intervals. Pretty simple really. Fewer players, more space, more chance of a goal. Think of rugby sevens.

4. Replay. For the final only. Prior to the final, a replay could put the whole schedule out of whack, but for the final itself, why not?

5. You could combine any or all of the above, and for domestic competitions, such as promotion play-offs, there are other criteria you could use. If a promotion play-off finishes in a draw after extra time, rather that use penalties, the team who finished higher in the league should be declared the winner.

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