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World Cup penalty shoot-outs: Why it’s all about who blinks first

by Rob Dore | June 30, 2014

Since its introduction in 1978 as a universally agreed up method to decide tied games we have seen 24 World Cup penalty shoot-outs. With the 1978 tournament having one of those funky double group stage set-ups there were only two knock-out games, neither of which required a twelve-yard showdown.

1982 brought the world its very first spot-kick set-to. Surprise, surprise, Germany were involved. Or West Germany as was the case at the time. Despite Uli ‘The Stopper’ Stielike recording the first penalty mis,  the Germans went on to beat France 5-4 in sudden death and progress to the final. Where they lost to Italy…but not on penalties.


This is one of only two occasions where the team who missed the first penalty went on to win. The other was Argentina in 1998. Can you remember who they were playing? That’s right, the worst penalty-takers in the history of the World Cup, England. Three attempts, three failures. Technically it’s 14 attempts, seven failures if we’re getting down to details.

Only Italy have lost as many shoot-outs as the Three Lions but the Azzurri do have one win to their credit. Germany top the list, winning three from three as West Germany and adding a fourth in 2006 under the unified Bundesflagge und Handelsflagge.


Including this tournament there have been 24 penalty shoot-outs at World Cups, 22 of which have been lost by the team who misses the first penalty. Even when subsequent penalties are missed, as happened on Saturday in the game between Brazil and Chile. Basically it’s all about who blinks first. Unless you’re England in which case it doesn’t matter who blinks when, if it’s a penalty shoot-out you’re going home.


If any current or potential future England internationals have managed to read this far without collapsing in a puddle of your own sadness, check out Stephen Hawking’s guide to taking the perfect penalty here.

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