The Agony & the Ecstasy: Memorable World Cup Penalty Shootouts

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The Agony & the Ecstasy: Memorable World Cup Penalty Shootouts

If you're a "serious" soccer fan who supports a team that usually gets past the first round, the words "penalty kick shootout" will probably send shivers down your spine.

No doubt, the World Cup is full of exciting and memorable moments, but there is none quite as painfully exhilarating as the penalty shootout. Players practice and prepare for them mentally, all the while hoping "it'll never come to that;” fans recall past victories or defeats, in an attempt to resolve whether the PK shootout "god" has historically smiled on their particular nation.

Almost four years ago now, close to this time of year, I was sinking into the most terrible depression. Argentina had just lost to Germany in the quarterfinals, (thanks to Jens Lehman's "paper-in-the-sock technique") and I had decided that the next 4 years of my life would be miserable. PK shootouts were to blame for my misery, and thus I hated them and wished they were dead.

It seemed to me that penalty kicks had a way of rewarding the undeserving, and had nothing to do with the game; they were all about luck, and nothing else.

If you've ever been on the losing side of a PK shootout, you'll know how I felt.

But once I came to grips and made peace with myself and destiny, I concluded that penalty kicks were a necessary evil and, additionally, they did add an element of excitement and flare to the World Cup.

So, in memory of many a shootout-inspired post-World Cup depression, I thought I'd mention some of the most memorable shootouts, sources of immense relief for some, and profound grief for others.

And in case you're a bit superstitious: historically Germany is the side you don't want to face in the shootout; they've won 4 of 4. England, on the other hand, have lost all 3 of theirs, Italy have won 1 of 4, Brazil 2 of 3, Argentina 3 of 4 and Spain 1 of 3.

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