Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Goalmouth Scramble 2012: The best and worst of penalties

Portugal's Bruno Alves misses his penalty shootout during the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo / AP
Portugal's Bruno Alves misses his penalty shootout during the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo / AP

The most dramatic moments in sport are created from the penalty spot on a football field.

Everyone stops, everyone pays attention and everyone is emotionally invested in a goal or a miss.

The bigger the occasion, the more people affected and this morning's Euro 2012 penalty shootout between Spain and Portugal transfixed a continent - as well as stirring up emotions in every corner of the globe.

After 120 minutes of football - in which Portugal were unable to muster a single shot on target - penalties were required to determine a winner. Some think it's a cruel way to end games, some look forward to it, but everyone watches.

Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas was the hero this morning, calmly slotting the winner and then wheeling away with tears in his eyes as the occasion hit him - sending Spain to their third successive major final and the brink of becoming the best international team of all time.

But what about poor old Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves who missed for Portugal? They represent the dark side of the shootout. The nature of the beast is that someone has to miss, someone has to be the scape goat. One man's ecstasy is the others agony.

So what is the key to being successful from the spot? Ask Italy's Andrea Pirlo or Spain's Sergio Ramos and they would say confidence. The two experienced internationals both performed 'Panenka' style penalties in their respective shootouts - seemingly without a care in the world, dinking the ball down the middle of the goal as the keeper sprawled to one side.

Can anyone imagine an English player having the confidence to perform this on such a huge stage? A miss would surely be greeted with an intolerable backlash of abuse from the media back home, but for Pirlo and Ramos, a miss was the furthest thing from their minds.

Some players are simply not comfortable with the pressure from the spot. Liverpool bought Andy Caroll for $NZ 55 million dollars to knock the ball in the net, but the English striker omitted himself from England's shootout lineup - instead passing on the responsibility to less qualified team mates who fluffed their lines.

There is a real art to the spot-kick and there have been a number of brilliant, creative and horrendous attempts over the years.

Here we take a look at some of the best and the worst.

The best:

1. Zinedine Zidane.

There is no bigger stage then the World Cup Final and in 2006 there was no better player then Zinedine Zidane. His confidence was sky high and he proved it with an audacious spot-kick against Italy No.1 Gigi Buffon. His chip clipped the underside of the bar and bounced just inches in. Sheer class.

2. Antonin Panenka

The Czechoslovakia midfielder's name lives on as the founder of the chip spot kick. In the 1976 Euro Championship Final against West Germany he was handed the chance to win the tournament with the last spot-kick in the shootout. In a stunning show of composure he let Sepp Maier dive to his left and then chipped the ball down the middle. Groundbreaking.

3. Johan Cruyff

This penalty went down in history and is still unique today. In a Dutch league match against Telstar in 1982, Cruyff opted to pass the spot-kick to team-mate Jesper Olsen who returned the favour and Cruyff tapped the ball home from close range as their opponents simply looked on in disbelief.

The worst:

1. Amir Sayoud

Only the Al Ahly striker will know what he was trying to do in September 2011 but his effort is a great reminder of why not to stutter a run-up. The Eyptian stalled just before the ball and then fell, earning himself a red face, a yellow card and a few million hits on YouTube.

2. Peter Devine

Lancaster City v Whitley Bay wouldn't normally go down in history but Devine made sure of it in 1991 with one of the most humiliating penalties ever. He stumbled in the run-up and his "shot" trickled just two yards. One of the worst possible outcomes from the penalty spot.

3. David Beckham

Even the world's biggest stars can mess it up from 12 yards as Beckham, England's master of the dead ball, found out at Euro 2004 in the quarter-final shootout against hosts Portugal. The midfielder could only look back at the spot in disgust after he blazed his effort high and wide. It proved yet another miserable shootout for the Three Lions, who crashed out.

4. Thierry Henry and Robert Pires

With the talent Henry and Pires had, this has to go down as their most embarrassing moment. The Arsenal duo tried to "do a Cruyff" in 2005 and pass the ball between each other before scoring. But it didn't quite go to plan as the initial touch was too soft and the players were left just looking at each other.

5. Andrea Pirlo

It can't work everytime. Two years before Pirlo would look like a hero in the Euro 2012 shootout with England, he looked like a fool while playing for AC Milan against Barcelona in the Gamer Trophy. When the 'Panenka' comes off it is a thing of beauty, but when it doesn't well... just watch.

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Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

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