From Chelsea to Barcelona. From Real Madrid to Juventus. From club to international level, penalties are regularly a daunting task for any player. However, one penalty from Czechoslovakia midfielder Antonin Panenka made the 1976 European Championship all that more famous. 36 years later, the 'Panenka' is still widely renowned as the best way to take a spot-kick and as witnessed in Euro 2012, that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.
Antonin Panenka (Czechoslovakia)
The original and the best, Antonin Panenka shot to prominence following Czechoslovakia’s penalty win over West Germany in the 1976 European Championship. Uli Hoeness cannoned his effort over the bar and with the pressure on the midfielder, he opted to chip the ball straight down the middle after Sepp Maier dived to his left. The effort saw him written into folklore with his effort dubbed the ‘Panenka’.
Andrea Pirlo (Italy and Juventus)
36 years later, and the Panenka has again shot to prominence, this time with Italy. After England had held firm to take the Azzuri to penalties in the quarter-final encounter at Euro 2012, Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo took a similar approach to the Czechoslovakia midfielder. With the pressure on the 33-year-old, he dinked the ball down the middle after Joe Hart dived to his right. Pirlo later confessed he took the penalty to ‘take Hart down a peg’.
Sergio Ramos (Spain and Real Madrid)
Sergio Ramos’ attempt at the Panenka came just three days after Pirlo’s effort and, perhaps, the Spain defender deserves more credit than is being given. Thinking back to April 25th, Ramos stepped up against Bayern Munich for Real Madrid in the semi-final shoot-out of the Champions League. The 26-year-old, however, blasted the ball over the bar that saw the Bundesliga giants through to the final. Against Portugal, Ramos, as fourth penalty taker, stepped up once again, this time delicately chipping past the flailing Rui Patricio.
Francesco Totti (Italy and AS Roma)
Not as high profile as the aforementioned trio, but still an exceptional bit of skill from Francesco Totti. Penalties in training never receive any real media attention, unless they manage to go viral. And Totti’s did just that, as the Italian striker ran up and executed a perfect backheel penalty that attracted the interest of football fans around the world.
Zinedine Zidane (France)
Another Panenka, but this time with a twist. Many are aware of the crossbar challenge, made famous by Soccer AM. Zinedine Zidane, in his final professional game, opted to combine both on the biggest stage of all – the World Cup final. Chipping the ball against the underside of the bar before seeing it bounce behind the line saw France take the initiative in the encounter. However, Zidane will forever be remembered for his head-butt on Marco Materazzi rather than the penalty itself.
Johan Cruyff (Holland)
A penalty that caused a stir in 1982 following Johan Cruyff’s to Ajax in the 1980’s. The Dutchman, instead of taking a conventional penalty, opted to pass the ball to team-mate Jesper Olsen, who returned to ball the Cruyff to put into an empty net against Helmond Sport. However, Cruyff wasn’t the first player to attempt the move, with Rik Coppens successfully pulling off the stunt in Belgium’s momentous 8-3 win over Iceland in 1957. The move was again attempted by Robert Pires and Thierry Henry in 2005, this time the move going all wrong.
David Luiz (Brazil and Chelsea)
Whenever a defender runs up to take a penalty, fans are fully expectant that the player in question is going to put his laces through the ball. And David Luiz didn’t disappoint in the Champions League final win over Bayern Munich. The Brazil international took a 20-yard run-up before smashing the ball into the top corner, which saw the Blues on the way to their triumph at the Allianz Arena in May after bruising past Barcelona in the semi-final of the competition.
Helder Postiga (Portugal and Real Zaragoza)
Tottenham Hotspur fans are all too familiar with the exploits of Helder Positga, with the 29-year-old netting just once following a disappointing year-long spell at White Hart Lane in 2003. However, at the quarter final stage of Euro 2004, Postiga doubled his Spurs tally, netting the equaliser in normal time before his Panenka past David James helping Portugal to the semi-finals of the competition.
A somewhat rare occurrence in 2004 between Brazil and Argentina saw A Selecao defeat their South American rivals 3-1. However, what made it different was the way the encounter was to be decided – three penalties. Up steps former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker Ronaldo to net all three from the spot and secure himself an international hat-trick. A far cry from Martin Palermo, who missed three penalties in the 1999 Copa America encounter between Argentina and Colombia. La Albiceleste went on to lose the game 3-0.
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