Football pundits will tell you penalty shootouts are a lottery – but they are wrong.
Though the pressure of the occasion plays a part, there’s really no excuse for a professional footballer missing a free shot at goal from just 12 yards out.
That doesn’t mean fans don’t feel some sympathy for those that do miss. However, it’s one thing to miss a penalty and another to fire your kick high, wide and anything but handsome.
These five represent the worst penalties ever witnessed at a World Cup and it goes without saying that England features.
In 2010, Asamoah Gyan had the chance to make history with Ghana. Drawing 1-1 with Uruguay deep into extra time of their quarter-final clash in South Africa, a goalline handball from Luis Suarez gifted the Black Stars a penalty with what would be the last kick of the game.
Score and Ghana would become the first African team to reach the last-four of a World Cup finals. But Gyan – who had already scored two spot-kicks at the tournament – crashed his effort against the bar and out for a goal kick. Though he went on to score in the resulting shootout, Ghana lost 4-2 on spot kicks. The wait for an African semi-finalist goes on.
In 1984, Michel Platini cemented his status as one of the best players in the world with some virtuoso showings at that year’s European Championship, netting nine goals in five games to help France lift the trophy on home soil.
Les Bleus were among the favourites at the World Cup in Mexico two years later, but Platini was a shadow of his former self. Suffering from a groin injury and playing under injection, the Frenchman still bagged two goals but is better remembered for this infamous penalty against Brazil in the quarter-finals of the competition. Though France advanced to the semis, Platini’s woeful kick remains as arguably the most unfortunate chapter in his football legacy. Well, as a player at least.
It may not have technically counted for anything. It may not have even been a proper penalty. It is, however, among the most feeble attempts at a penalty ever witnessed.
Ross, to her credit, did a fine job of geeing up the watching crowd ahead of the 1994 World Cup curtain raiser / snoozefest between Germany and Bolivia at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Her performance was supposed to climax with Ross scoring a penalty. It didn’t quite go to plan though, with Ross sending her effort badly wide of the mark. It’s still a lot better than Will Smith’s more recent attempt though.
England probably would have gone out anyway, given that Stuart Pearce had already missed and Peter Shilton seemed incapable of making a penalty save, but Chris Waddle’s wild effort in the 1990 semi-final shootout defeat to West Germany still rankles.
As high and wide a penalty attempt as you are likely to find, it’s the kind of miss that could have ended the career of a lesser player. Waddle, to his credit, bounced back.”There were two ways to react; basically, you can do a Lord Lucan and disappear or stick your chest out and prove to everybody you’re a good footballer,” he said.
Waddle went on to win the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award in 1993, during a spell in Marseille that has seen the midfielder become something of a cult hero among fans of L’OM.
Possibly the cruelest and most infamous penalty miss of all-time, Roberto Baggio had been the standout star of Italy’s march to the 1994 World Cup final but it was his blasted effort that ultimately handed victory to Brazil.
Playing with an ankle injury and already trailing Brazil in the shootout following misses from Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, the Azzurri probably would have lost regardless of Baggio’s miss. But the fact that Baggio went from hero to villain at a World Cup he lit up, makes this all the more painful.
“I always dreamed of playing in a World Cup final since I was a little boy, but I never thought it could end like that,” Baggio later reflected. “I still find it hard to accept what happened that day. However, it has helped me to stay humble because life is a continued challenge and you can’t beat yourself up.”
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.