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Best & Worst: World Cup penalty kicks under the microscope

| 06.07.2014

Since the first ever World Cup penalty shootout in 1982, fans have been left overjoyed and crushed in equal measure by the high drama produced by the spot-kick lottery.

And no matter what the outcome, you can’t help but be captivated by the raw emotion and adrenaline that only five (or more) attempts at goal can create.

But who’s proved to be the best at holding their nerve in the past and which players have cost their country a glorious triumph?

Here’s our take on the best and worst penalty kicks in World Cup history.


Fabio Grosso – Italy v France, World Cup final 2006

What better (or worse?) way to win a World Cup than with the deciding penalty in an epic shootout.

That’s exactly what Fabio Grosso did with Italy the 4-3 victors over France.

Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt on Marco Materazi may well be the enduring image of that particular final.

But Grosso had the last word.

Horst Hrubesch – West Germany v France, World Cup semi-final 1982

In the first ever penalty shootout to take place at a World Cup finals, West Germany’s Horst Hrubesch wrote himself into the record books by calmly slotting away the decisive kick.

A thrilling semi-final contest had finished 3-3 after extra-time meaning it was up to the then Hamburg striker’s boot to decide matters.

David O’Leary – Republic of Ireland v Romania, World Cup second round 1990

Before his managerial exploits at Leeds United and Aston Villa, David O’Leary was helping his country reach the last-eight of a World Cup for the first time ever.

Romania were the ones made to suffer with the luck, and skill, of the Irish holding out as Packie Bonner saved from Daniel Timofte to set O’Leary up for a grandstand finish.

The Arsenal defender didn’t disappoint either, dispatching his penalty with the minimum of fuss.


Roberto Baggio – Italy v Brazil, World Cup final 1994

Quite simply the most memorable penalty miss in football, let alone World Cup, history.

Pony-tailed Baggio had been a star in the United States but he’ll forever be remembered for blazing over the bar to hand Brazil their fourth World Cup crown.

The Selecao were mighty relieved to see the Azzurri striker’s penalty go into orbit and so were we after 120 minutes of turgid fare produced a 0-0 draw before late drama from 12 yards.

Chris Waddle – England v West Germany, World Cup semi-final 1990

It’s the closest England have been to a World Cup final since lifting the trophy in 1966 and Chris Waddle literally fired all our hopes and dreams into the night sky.

On a balmy night in Turin, mullet-sporting Waddle had a mad rush of blood to the head as he smashed his spot-kick high over Bodo Illgner’s crossbar to hand the Germans a 4-3 penalties victory.

Jamie Carragher – England v Portugal, World Cup quarter-final 2006

A bit harsh perhaps seeing as the poor bloke had scored a perfectly good penalty before being made to repeat the trick by fussy referee Horacio Elizondo.

However, Liverpool’s Carragher seemed an unlikely penalty-taker for England against Portugal with the likes of Joe Cole and Peter Crouch both not making the long walk ahead of him.

And so it proved an unfortunate move with his tame second effort saved by Ricardo.

His miss ultimately allowed that cheeky winker Ronaldo to send Portugal through and thus end the five-year reign of Three Lions boss Sven Goran-Eriksson on a sour note.


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William Geldart

William contributed to a number of online football blogs before finally finding his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow alongside the rest of the Ladbrokes News team. Now indulging passions for football, horse racing, greyhounds, boxing and political betting. Supports Wycombe Wanderers and can be spotted at various lower league and non-league grounds across the country.