Football: Palermo emerges as a hat-trick zero

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The Independent Online
MARTIN PALERMO has little time for the theories of Robert the Bruce. Much as the Argentinian striker tried, tried and tried again, he still could not score from the penalty spot, and missed a hat-trick of spot kicks as his side lost 3-0 to Colombia in the Copa America on Sunday.

The Boca Juniors striker, a prolific scorer at club level, had been called up by his country when the first choice forwards, Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo, asked to be rested after a tough season in Europe.

Last Thursday, Palermo became a national hero after scoring two excellent goals - his first for his country - in a 3-1 win over Ecuador. On Sunday, everything went pear-shaped.

Palermo missed his first penalty in the fifth minute when a goal would have given his team the lead, blasting a powerful shot against the crossbar. He had a second attempt in the 75th minute for what would have been an equaliser, but he fired his shot wildly over the bar. His third effort, in the 89th minute, with Colombia 3-0 ahead, was for nothing but a consolation. Undeterred by his previous failures, Palermo offered to take the kick without hesitation. He hit the target, but his shot was saved by Miguel Calera.

Argentina's coach, Marcelo Bielsa, sympathised with his player. "He's the one with the job of taking penalties. He had the character to offer to take the second penalty after missing the first and the same thing with the third," Bielsa said.

"There's always a first time for everything and today I saw it,"Javier Alvarez, Colombia's coach, said.

Not to be left out, Alvarez's own side got in on the fluffing act, with Hamilton Ricard, the Middlesbrough striker, missing from the spot before his team-mate, Ivan Cordoba, showed how it should be done by being the only player to score out of the five penalties awarded. The win put Colombia into the quarter-finals and left Argentina to fight for a place with Uruguay, whom they meet in their final group C game tomorrow.

Only one match in British football history has seen five penalties awarded. In March 1989, Crystal Palace were awarded four and Brighton one in the space of 27 minutes at Selhurst Park. Although Palace missed three of theirs and Brighton scored, the Eagles won the match 2-1.

The most-missed individual spot-kick came in 1973, when three different Notts County players all failed to score the same penalty, which was ordered to be re-taken twice. A case perhaps, of "if at first you don't succeed, let someone else fail".