Sir: Am I the only one in Britain who thinks the penalty shoot-out is the greatest invention since goalposts?
Nothing else in Euro 96 had us hiding behind our sofas like that last unforgettable five minutes of England v Germany. Yes, it is tough on the poor devil who blows it, but tragedy is one of the things that makes sport such compulsive viewing (ask Mary Decker and Zola Budd).
We have stumbled on a device that invests even the most boring goalless draw with drama and mounting tension, and, incomprehensibly, we want to ditch it. If the football authorities had any sense, they would make it mandatory for every drawn match; then nobody would come away from a nil- nil result claiming that they were bored to tears.
By the way, how many letters would you have got on the subject had Southgate scored and Moller missed?
From Mr A Duncan
Sir: I read with dismay the various convoluted proposals for resolving the penalty shoot-out dilemma.
Surely what football needs is a simple method after an extra-time draw, to reward the team which has played the more attacking football during the match. The only way, apart from scoring goals, that expresses attacking superiority in football is through corner kicks gained. A team cannot be awarded corner kicks if it does little or no attacking. Counting corners (only after a drawn match) will maintain football's simplicity and force an alteration in attitude towards defensive tactics.
This would mean that games would open up in any case and the likelihood of a draw would diminish. It also minimises the risk of dreadful spectacles such as the France v Czech Republic semi-final.
Why tinker with the essence of football and almost create a different sport to deal with the problem, when such an obvious and positive solution exists?
From Mr J B Price
Sir: Ken Jones is right to express concern about the role played by penalty shoot-outs in recent major competitions. When both semi-finals of the recent European championship had to be determined in this way it is fair to say that the entire credibility of the tournament was undermined. To promote a tournament designed to establish the football champions of Europe and then settle a series of crucial matches by a means other than playing football is beyond rational justification. On this topic, how Brazil can possibly call themselves world champions when the final of the World Cup ended in a draw is more than I can understand.
Neither do I hold out much hope for the idea of counting corners to act as a tie-breaker. This suggestion fails to take into account the effect this would have on the way teams play. I dread to think of the kind of matches which will arise when teams realise that they can gain victory by winning a couple of corners early on and then playing possession football for the rest of the game. Furthermore, the sole objective of football is to score goals; any complication of this basic premise would stand the risk of destroying this most appealing of spectator sports.
Perhaps the problem lies in the refusal to accept a draw as the valid result it undoubtedly is. The traditional solution of a replay is apparently denied, so why not look instead to the most effective method of determining a championship, namely a league system. For instance, in Euro 96 the four winners of the initial league would then form a further league, which would produce a winner by the established mechanism. This would produce a series of high-class matches and victory could be achieved only by the prowess of the game itself - not by some footling competition that rightly belongs in the inane realms of It's a Knock-Out. If anyone would lament the loss of a showpiece finale, I would ask them to consider the last two World Cup finals, two of the worst matches played at international level. In any case, it is time for football to rethink the fundamentals of its most prestigious tournaments.
From Mr M Mullard
Sir: I would like to add my opinion to the penalty shoot-out debate. At present the fear of losing is so great that the already dominant defences are ruling to an even greater extent in extra time than during the normal 90 minutes. I feel that the only way to ensure a result is to somehow break up these dominant defences.
As such, my suggestion is to remove the goalkeepers for the 30 minutes of extra time (not golden-goal rules). This will almost certainly produce goals, and therefore increase excitement levels and hopefully ensure that penalties would be avoided. It would have the added advantage of breaking up defences who would have to place two or three "normal" players in goal and this, in turn, would allow remaining players the extra space needed to create chances. One would assume the more skilful team would have the advantage. It would also make defending an extra-time lead almost impossible.
The game is being damaged by dominant defences. We want goals and the excitement that these bring. The above suggestion, would I feel, address the problems we face.
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