I had been planning to write this for some time now, but with the world cup final ending in a penalty shoot-out, now is a good time as any for this post.
My contention is that penalty shoot-outs are not a fair way to decide a football contest. It favours the team that is generally good at taking penalties, while ignoring everything that has gone on for the past 120 or so minutes. The game really must be decided based on general play, rather than a lottery of penalties.
The unfairness of penalties is best exemplified by the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Arsenal in 2005, a game which Manchester United dominated (Arsenal did not have a single shot on goal till the penalties!), but lost on penalties. Some people argue that Manchester United did not deserve to win because they could not score in 90 minutes, but the same people have no explanation for why Arsenal deserved to win the game when they couldnt muster a single shot on goal!
So, here are a couple of suggestions for doing away with penalties.
1) Continue playing extra time (with a break every 15 minutes) till you get a result.
Generally teams tend to play defensive in extra time. Which means that more often than not, they are looking to hold on till the penalties. But now since there are no penalties, someone must score. To score, you have to play attacking football. Teams also know that they cannot afford to keep playing indefinitely. The fatigue factor will come in sooner or later, and as the game keeps getting prolonged, both teams will be pretty desperate to score. And score they will. And you will very rarely see games being played beyond the 3rd or (at the very most) 4th over time. An extra 15 or 30 minutes in favour of penalties seems worth it.
2) Modify the penalty system to make it fairer.
Basically, this means setting up an attack against defense kind of play, with 4 attackers, 3 defenders and a goalkeeper (the numbers can be different). The play continues till the ball goes out of play. The half-way line is also considered to be a boundary. At 5 plays per team, the team that scores more goals wins.
So there it is, my bit towards making knock-out games in football fairer to the teams that play well and deserve victory.