Drogba made Chelsea’s European dream a reality when he beat Manuel Neuer to inflict defeat on Bayern Munich in the 2012 final, but he has revealed he almost attempted the most dangerous penalty in football.
Talking on ITV4 documentary, Didier Drogba: Sports Life Stories, the Ivory Coast international admits he decided to dink the ball down the middle of the goal—in the style coined by Antonin Panenka—but changed his mind at the last moment. ESPNfc provides the quotes:
I was thinking, 'OK, OK, now it is my turn, what do I do? The goalkeeper has gone everywhere we shoot everywhere, every time you take a long run he goes in the right direction.'
So I decided to do a Panenka. I thought, 'OK - Panenka. No, no, no, no, Panenka.'
But I decided to take a two-step then I will not give the goalkeeper any time to read my run and I will see where he is going, so after my first step I could see he had already gone on my right [so] I put the ball on the left and then I think that was it.
Had Drogba attempted the Panenka penalty, it would have been the most daring act produced by a footballer since the Czech international left the planet aghast in the 1976 European Championship final.
Facing the widely acknowledged No. 1 keeper in Europe, Drogba could have thrown away his status as one of Chelsea’s greatest legends had he failed with a cheeky chip down the centre of the goal.
Chelsea had already experienced the ultimate penalty heartache in their previous Champions League final appearance against Manchester United. Back then, John Terry was one kick from cementing victory, only to slip and send his penalty against a post as the Red Devils snatched the trophy.
Terry’s miss was forgivable. It was a miserably wet night that caused his loss of balance. Drogba’s act of impishness, had it failed, would surely never have been forgiven.
However, Drogba’s insight does show that players do not consider the penalty-taking style an act of showboating. Having weighed his options, the former Chelsea man clearly felt sure Neuer would dive, rendering the Panenka dink a justifiable option.
Andrea Pirlo famously used the same technique against England at Euro 2012, while Zinedine Zidane did likewise in the 2006 World Cup final. It requires skill and courage to pull it off, but should not necessarily be considered an act of arrogance or overconfidence from the player.