The five most (in)famous World Cup penalty shootouts

Of the 30 penalty shootouts in a World Cup, only twice has the World Cup final itself come down to it (1994 and 2006).

Russia's Igor Akinfeev saves Koke's penalty
There have been 30 penalty shootouts in World Cup tournaments [EPA]

The knockout round of the World Cup 2022 is here.

Which means we are set for the joy and thrill of penalty shootout. Football’s penalty shootout, with all its agony and ecstacy, was introduced into the laws of the game in 1971.

But it was not until 1982 that it was seen in a World Cup when West Germany knocked France out of the semi-final with a 5-4 shootout win.

Of the 30 penalty shootouts in a World Cup, only twice has the World Cup final itself come down to it (1994 and 2006).

Here are the top five World Cup penalty shootouts:

Brazil 3 – 4 France
Mexico 1986

Brazil’s Pele, probably the greatest ever footballer, described this game at Mexico 1986 as “the match of the century”.

The scorching heat of the Guadalajaran sun did little to slow the pace of attack and skill of both teams battling through this quarter-final. The ever-flamboyant Brazil, led by Socrates, were taking on European champions France, featuring the midfield “magic quartet” of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez.

Platini, on his 31st birthday, scored France’s goal in response to Careca’s finish from a typically free-flowing “samba football” Brazilian team play. The game was level 1-1 after extra time.

Socrates missed Brazil’s first penalty of the shootout. While Platini could not hold his nerve and sent France’s fourth into orbit, Fernandez kept it together to fire France’s fifth into the net.

Platini and Cesar 1986
France’s Michel Platini (right) takes on Brazil’s Julio Cesar during the first half of their World Cup match on June 21, 1986 [Charles Platiu/Reuters]

South Korea 5-3 Spain
South Korea-Japan 2002

South Korea’s 2002 campaign was dogged by controversy. The joint hosts, not really known as a footballing powerhouse, had raised some eyebrows by beating Portugal (Portugal receiving two red cards) and Italy (a game noted for refereeing mistakes committed by a man suspended by the Ecuadorian FA for match-fixing less than a year later). They then faced Spain in the quarter-final.

Spain had two goals disallowed, the second of which was clearly in error. Several tight offside calls went against them. And it was on to penalties. Korea scored from their first four strikes, when 20-year-old Spanish winger Joaquin stepped forward. South Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae blocked his shot, but had come way off the goal line long before the ball was in play.

Hon Myung-bo sealed victory with Korea’s fifth penalty goal.

Hong Myung-bo scores the winning penalty past Spain's goalkeeper Iker Casillas
South Korea’s Hong Myung-bo scores the winning penalty past Spain’s Iker Casillas in their World Cup quarter-final penalty shootout in Kwangju, June 22, 2002 [Oleg Popov/AW/JDP/Reuters]

Brazil 3 – 2 Italy
USA 1994

More than 94,000 fans packed into Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium for the final, dispelling any doubts that US audiences would not take to football’s biggest tournament. Brazil had beaten Italy in the 1970 final, and it seemed the 1994 edition was heading the same way, with Brazil taking the lion’s share of chances in the first half.

But they failed to break through, and Italy kept them out through the second half as well.

Penalties it was. Italy’s Franco Baresi sent the first into the sky. Marcio Santos stepped up, but had his effort saved. Albertini, Romario, Evani and Branco all netted, putting the scoreline at 2-2. But after AC Milan’s Daniele Massoro – part of Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning squad – had his shot saved, and Brazilian captain Dunga fired into the bottom left corner, all eyes were on Roberto Baggio who had carried his team to the final.

Baggio skied it and Brazil lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for the fourth time.

Claudio Taffarel makes a save on a shot by Italy's Daniele Massaro
Brazil’s Claudio Taffarel saves Daniele Massaro’s penalty shot to decide the World Cup final on July 17, 1994 [Oleg Popov/Reuters]

West Germany 4 – 3 England
Italia 1990

Footballing rivals since England beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, an event as strong in the formation of English identity as the geopolitics of Europe 25 years previously, this was a tortuous end to England’s 1990 trailblazing campaign. The tears of the mercurial Paul Gascoigne as he received a second tournament yellow card in this semi-final, meaning he would miss the final, were mirrored across the nation as he withdrew from the penalty shootout.

He was replaced in the penalties lineup by Chris Waddle, as the match ended 1-1 after full-time.

Goalkeeper Peter Shilton was desperately unlucky not to get a hand on a single penalty taken by the Germans, delaying each dive until the ball had been struck. Stuart Pearce took England’s fourth shot, which ricocheted off Bodo Illgner’s shin. Waddle had never taken a penalty in a leading competition, but stepped forward and struck hard. Illgner could not reach it. It smacked off the post, England were out and Germany through to the final.

Chris Waddle misses penalty Italia 1990
England’s Chris Waddle watches his shot beat the goalkeeper – only to hit the post [Action Images/Reuters]

Italy 5-3 France
Germany 2006

The most recent World Cup final to go to penalties, the 69,000 fans at the Olympiastadion in Berlin were treated to a match focused on two giants of the modern game – Zinedine Zidane for France and Italy’s Marco Materazzi. Each scored in the first 20 minutes.

But it was a now-notorious extra time foul that stole the show, as Zidane headbutted Materazzi in the chest, sending the Italian to the ground, and the Frenchman – in his final match before a planned retirement – to the locker room.

France went into the penalty shootout without their talisman. The Italians went first, with Andrea Pirlo slotting his shot home. France’s Sylvain Wiltord matched that effort, before Materazzi also found the net. David Trezeguet took France’s second, firing the ball against the bottom edge of the crossbar. It was the only penalty shot to miss, as Italy fired their remaining three shots into goal and won the World Cup for the fourth time.

Buffon and Zizou
Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (left) speaks to France’s Zinedine Zidane after his notorious headbuttin the World Cup 2006 final [Charles Platiau/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera