Anyone who loves football loathes it when a major final is decided on penalty kicks. The teams sweat and labor for 120 minutes only to have what is often the biggest day of their professional lives decided by a spot kick 12 yards from goal. It's hardly fair, though it is equitable. And there's a difference I suppose.
But good Lord, it's so against what is right and wonderful about football, that there has to be a way to nuke PKs from the World Cup finals. Honestly, wasn't the 2006 Italy-France final such a downer; such a well-played 120 minutes coming down to PKs made it so anticlimactic and unmemorable. It's such an American answer to the finish of a sporting event that I'm surprised FIFA allows it at all. We here in the States love sudden death. Hockey has sudden death. Golf too. Pro football, our new pastime, perverts sudden death to such an extreme that it's possible the losing team would never even have has possession of the ball and still could lose the game.
But nothing overseas seems to embrace this concept of sudden death or overtimes that don't adhere to the game itself. Hell, even league champions are crowned based on their performance in the table over the course of 30 to 38 games. No playoffs. No wild cards. No sudden death in the Super Bowl.
So why should what is arguably the greatest sporting event on this beautiful planet be allowed if necessary to be decided by an individual action after 120 minutes of team play? It's not right.
The solution? Well Marcotti says there should be a replay of the game three days later, and if that game still ends in a draw after 120 minutes, then bring on the PKs.
Um. Maybe in an ideal world. But you know what? If I hold a ticket for the World Cup final, or I'm shelling out millions to advertise on television during the World Cup final, I damned better well see a champion crowned on the field of play that day. I'm not staying in country another three days and nights--at whose expense by the way--for the Wednesday replay. No, that won't work.
But what would?
Shorter extra periods?
Refresh the sub limit for extra time, giving each team two substitutions for the extra time, no matter how many they've used during the first 90?
10 v. 10?
Yeah, I'm getting ridiculous, but it's a serious and legitimate problem. Granted, only two of the 18 World Cup finals have been decided on penalty kicks (three others in extra time), but we're seeing it happen with more frequency in the Champions League and even down to the domestic cup level. Teams get to a point in extra time where the game becomes an exercise in killing the clock; short, meaningless passes, no imagination, no strategy.
Marcotti raises an interesting point, and maybe after all is said and done, PKs are the best solution. I'd just hate to see a Spain-England final come down to David Beckham at the spot needing to score to keep it going; the bloke might, well, miss.
If you think you have the answer, I'd love to hear it. Please leave it in comments and I will re-post the best in a future blog.