“Football is a simple game,” Gary Lineker once said.
“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans always win,” added the Match Of The Day presenter.
So when a new penalty shootout system was used for the first time in a competitive game on Thursday, it was perhaps unsurprising that it was a Germany side who came out on top.
European football’s governing body, Uefa, is evaluating a new ‘ABBA’ penalty shootout system – rather than the traditional ABAB pattern, where one side always has the pressure of going second – to make them fairer.
It is trialling its use at both men’s and women’s European Under-17s tournaments currently taking place.
And it was at the women’s competition – a semi-final between Germany and Norway on Thursday – that the chance to put it into use for the first time arose.
The Germans are famed for their penalty-spot prowess after winning five shootouts at major finals – although unusually they missed their first three spot-kicks.
Yet they were still able to beat Norway 3-2 to reach the final of the tournament in the Czech Republic.
The men’s tournament in Croatia has not yet reached the knockout stage.
How does it work?
As the current system stands, teams take turns in a shootout, with the choice of who goes first decided by a coin toss.
For example, team A goes first, then team B, then team A again.
The new system is called sees team A followed by team B – before team B goes again. Team A would then get two successive penalties, a little like the tie-break in tennis, and so on until there is a winner.
A coin will still be tossed to decide who goes first.
Why is a change needed?
The idea is to stop the team going second having to always, potentially, play catch-up. The sport’s rule-making body, Ifab, approved the trial after looking at the research that says the team taking the first penalty have an unfair advantage as they win 60% of shootouts.
“The hypothesis is that the player taking the second kick in the pair is under greater mental pressure,” said Uefa.