I watched the Argentina-Mexico game last night in Maracaibo with some Argentine and Mexican colleagues and after Riquelme’s chipped penalty and we got to talking about the inevitable – how one day a goalkeeper is going to stand still and the penalty taker will end up looking like a fool.
The Mexican colleague told us it already happened in Mexico, and believe it or not to Sebastian Abreu, the same man who successfully tried the stunt against Brazil the night before last.
Apparently Abreu, who played for Monterrey, tried to chip in a penalty against Chiapas and the keeper stood his ground. (Unfortunately we can’t find any video of it.) Abreu looked like an idiot but they don’t call him El Loco Abreu for nothing and he wasn’t afraid to try it again on a much larger stage on Tuesday night. (What cojones!)
We also got to talking about the origins of such cheeky penalties. The first guy we can ever remember pulling it off, or even trying it, was Antonin Panenka, who beat the great Sepp Maier in the penalty decider of the 1976 European Championship.
Back then it was a novelty. Now it seems to be gaining in popularity. Riquelme’s last night was lovely, as was Abreu’s against Brazil.
But goalkeepers or goalkeeping coaches would do well to follow the lead of German keeper Jens Lehmann, who researched how opponents hit their penalties. That research helped him keep out the Argentines in the quarter finals last year.
Of course, the way to beat even that system is to do it a la Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final and not chip it into the middle of the goal but into the top corner. Like this.
If anyone else has stories of particularly special Panenkas – or even better, unsuccessful ones – then drop us a line. We’d love to hear them.