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Debate

Is the Panenka penalty a genius move or just a risky gamble not worth taking?

The quarter-final clash of the Copa America 2024 between Argentina and Ecuador was a pure cliffhanger. The World Champions were held 1-1 by the La Tricolor but eventually emerged victorious in the penalty shootout. However, the biggest headline of the match remains star player Lionel Messi missed the kick from the spot as he tried the infamous ‘Panenka.’ While many are aware of this technique, others unaware are curious to know what exactly the Panenka penalty kick is and exactly how it came into fashion.

The Panenka is a penalty kick technique where the kicker lightly chips the ball into the goal while taking a shot. Typically, players make a run to send the ball to either right or the left side of the net. However, the trick for Panenka is to make a slight tap underneath the ball, which makes it float into the center of the goal. If used effectively, it can help deceive the goalkeeper, who usually dives to the side to save the kick.

Notably, this technique is named after renowned Czech player Antonín Panenka. He used it for the first time in the UEFA Euro 1976 final in Belgrade, where he outsmarted West German goalkeeper Sepp Maier to secure the championship for Czechoslovakia. While it embarrassed Maier, Panenka emphasized that this was never his intention. In fact, even today, it is rightly loathed by goalkeepers.

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Poll of the day

Do you think Lionel Messi should stop attempting Panenka penalties?

Yes, it's too risky

No, it's part of his style

Only in crucial moments

Depends on the opponent

Yet, it eventually saw Antonín etch his name in the history books. While it may seem cool when scored, it has its own risks. If goalkeepers don’t dive or the shooter doesn’t strike the ball correctly, a Panenka attempt can appear quite foolish. There are many big examples and Lionel Messi became one of them today.

Panenka attempt from Lionel Messi could have cost Argentina

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Lionel Messi led the penalty shootout today during Argentina vs Ecuador after the match ended 1-1. With nerves of steel, the 37-year-old decided to shoot the ball with the Panenka technique. Though the keeper was easily deceived, who dived the other way, it unfortunately hit the crossbar. This was because Messi applied too much pressure on the ball. However, he isn’t the biggest name of all in the beautiful game to have made such a blunder while attempting the Panenka.

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Even top players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Aguero, and Gary Lineker have experienced notable failures with this technique. Yet, one can’t forget some of the most famous Panenkas like the one in the 2006 World Cup final when Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring for France with a spot-kick just six minutes into the game, leaving Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon stranded in goal. Another iconic example came in the 2012 Euros when Andrea Pirlo used the technique in a quarterfinal penalty shootout victory against England.

Regardless, it’s hard to deny the beauty of Panenka. But it is advised that players shall imitate it at their own risk.