Penalties are always a big talking point at any knockout tournament – club or international football. Ahead of the tournament, sides will place a big emphasis on practising penalties in training. They may even recreate a real shootout. This’ll also help the manager figure out their best 5 penalty takers. Out of the 15 2018 World Cup knockout games, 4 went to a penalty shootout. Same story as the 2020 Euros with 4 matches heading to a penalty shootout.
History of World Cup penalty shootouts
Penalty shootouts have not been around for as long as you’d think! They were only introduced to the World Cup in 1978 and first seen in 1982. Yet, shootouts weren’t able to be used in World Cup finals until the next edition, in 1986.
The format of the World Cup in 1978 was much different to the modern format. There were only ever 16 nations at the World Cup up until 1982. The World Cup was expanded to 24 nations in 1982, and further expanded to 32 sides by 1998. In 1978, the 16 countries were split into 4 groups of 4. After a round robin, the top 2 in each group entered the second round. The qualifying 8 nations would then be split into 2 groups of 4. A further round robin would then take place with the top nation in each group reaching the final.
The format included a lot less knockout football. So, as the tournament expanded to 24 by 1982, knockout stages also became a much larger part. Even with the expansion, the format was still very group based. It involved 6 groups of 4, with the top 2 in each entering the second round. The nations would then be placed into 4 groups of 3, with the top nation in each entering the semi finals.
This format changed in 1986. Instead of the second round of groups, qualifying nations from the groups would enter the ‘knockout’ phase. In my eyes, a much more exciting way of determining which nations continue their World Cup journey.
From the 1986 World Cup onwards, the nations qualifying from the groups enter Round 2, also known as the ‘Round of 16’. The knockout phase is where the drama unfolds, with extra time and penalties being a real possibility. With the new format and more knockout football, the World Cup is a much more exciting watch overall. But, definitely heightens the tension and nerves for fans of both sides!
World Cup penalty shootout records
Most penalty shootout losses: England, Italy, Spain – 3 each
England, Italy and Spain are level in shootout losses at the World Cup. All nations actually have the same overall record too. All winning one shootout and losing three in their World Cup history (75% loss rate). England’s penalty reputation is miserable on the International stage. Their penalty form at the European championships is even worse than their World Cup form – losing 4 out of 5 shootouts. That takes England to an overall record of 8 shootouts and only 2 successes – worrying as an England fan heading to Qatar.
Most penalty shootout wins: Germany and Argentina – 4 each
Both Germany and Argentina share the honours for the most shootout wins. Although, Germany boast a perfect 4 out of 4 while Argentina have a loss to their name. Unsurprisingly, this loss came against Germany in the quarter final stage in 2006.
Most consecutive penalty shootout wins: Germany 4 in a row and undefeated
Germany take the crown again. There’s no surprise they have such a good reputation at penalty shootouts after looking at their record. Germany won a shootout in three World Cups on the bounce (1982, 1986,1990). There’s no luck behind the record either, scoring 17 out of 18 penalties that they’ve taken in a penalty shootout. This is a seriously impressive record and must give their fans serious confidence in any shootouts.
Longest penalty shootout: 12 penalties, West Germany vs France and Sweden vs Romania
Germany featured again in the record for the longest penalty shootout. It’s surprising there’s not been a shootout that’s gone further than one sudden death penalty. So, maybe Qatar 2022 is the tournament to break this record! In the first World Cup shootout in 1982, West Germany edged past France on penalties before losing out to Italy in the final. The record was matched in 1994 when Sweden defeated Romania 5-4 in the quarters.
Will we see a record number of penalties at Qatar?
VAR was first introduced at the World Cup in 2018. The technology was reportedly used 400 times during the World Cup. There was a lot of talk heading into the World Cup around the amount of penalties that will be awarded. The total surpassed expectations. A total of 29 penalties were awarded, passing 2014’s total of 13 by quite some margin.
The previous record was held at 18, which was seen in the 1990, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. This record was smashed in 2018 with the introduction of VAR and it’ll be no surprise to see a further record set in Qatar.
Who are the penalty kings?
Germany would have to be seen as the penalty kings. It’s hard to see any nation coming close to never losing a World Cup shootout and only ever missing one penalty. No goalkeeper has even got a touch on any of these scoring penalties. There doesn’t seem to be any different approaches by Germany penalty takers. Out of the 18 taken penalties at World Cup shootout, 44% were to the goalkeepers right with 39% to the left. So they’re not favouring any side more than the other.
Argentina also has a very good record. The South Americans are level with Germany on shootout wins at a World Cup but also hold a loss. Winning 80% of their shootouts is still a very good rate and puts them towards the top of the list.
Another nation worth mentioning is Croatia. They were involved in two shootouts at the 2018 World Cup, winning both in the quarters and semis. Having the experience in a World Cup shootout is invaluable. The pressure here is something you can’t recreate on the training pitch or even club football (closest would be the Champions League final). Any players involved in the Croatian 2018 squad should seriously benefit from the experience this time around.
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