Monday, July 10, 2006

Penalty Shoot-outs

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.

9 comments:

santosh saladi said...

hi,
Its nice that you came with ideas to suggest a better way to choose the winner in case of a tie.

Coming to the first idea suggested,
its really hard to play 120 minutes and I don't think its really fair to ask them play more. Moreover football is very attractive as it takes just 2 hours (at max) to get the result. Playing more time really destroys the beauty.

The second idea seems feasible.

I personally feel that luck is a part and parcel of life. So, some times an unlucky team might loose to some other lucky (less talented) team. That's a part of a game.

Anyways a nice post...

Mahesh.R said...

I think penalties are a wonderful way of deciding games. After giving the teams 120 minutes to prove their skill, penalties serve as a test of mental strength and ability to hold ones nerve. It is not a lottery by any means. If a guy has enough nerve to put it through, good for him.
To your point that sometimes the team that played the best doesnt win and that it is unfair, well, life is unfair isnt it? If sports were ideal in every sense, it would not be followed by millions of people.

Sailesh Ganesh said...

@Santosh:

its really hard to play 120 minutes and I don't think its really fair to ask them play more

That is exactly the reason why I think the idea will work, teams will not want to keep playing, so they will try to score instead of the defensive football we see these days. Of course, we wouldnt know till its tried out, whether FIFA wants to make any changes is another matter.

@Mahesh: Quite a few people seem to concur with you. Agreed, life is unfair, but sport is supposed to be a relief from life. It defeats the purpose if sports were to mirror life. Why do people raise a hue and cry when referees make incorrect calls? It is a sense of justice that they are crying out for.

Everytime a team plays 10 men behind the ball, it invariably gets a draw. It was not good enough to defeat the other team on its own merit, and hence has to rely on penalties. This is what I feel is incorrect. It is an entirely different matter if the said team sneaks a goal somehow and spends the rest of the game defending.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought- do away with offsides after the initial 90 minute period.

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