May 22, 2008

Champions League Final - Shootouts are Rubbish

Or, as we say in America, shootouts are total bullshit.

Yesterday Manchester United defeated Chelsea in an all-England Champions League Final. The first half of the match was amazing, with an amazing goal by Christiano Ronaldo and numerous squandered opportunities for Manchester. Right before the halftime whistle, Frank Lampard took advantage of a United defensive breakdown to knot the match at 1.

At halftime I switched to watch a bit of the American Idol finale, but when I switched back 15 minutes later, the game was in the 75th minute. I was watching the 7pm replay of the match, so I guess ESPN cut out half an hour at the beginning of the second half to make the match fit into a 3 hour time slot.

The rest of the match and the extra periods were fairly boring because teams always seem to play extra conservatively in situations like this.

Admittedly, the penalty kicks were exciting, with Christiano Ronaldo getting blocked and looking like he would be remembered as a choker. After that, John Terry missed what would have been the game winning shot when he slipped on the pitch and pushed it wide. Edwin van der Sar came up huge for Manchester with a game winning save to end the game.

The only problem is, a game like this should never be decided by penalty kicks. I know this debate has raged in soccer circles for years, and I've actually switched sides on it. I used to think that PKs were exciting and a great way to end a game, but now I wish they'd just keep playing OT periods. What's better than a playoff hockey game that goes into multiple overtimes? Aren't 2OT and 3OT basketball games exciting?

I know the other side of the argument is always that the game could go on forever, or that the players would get too tired. I don't care. This is the Champions League Final. If there was not a chance of sending the game to penalty kicks, the teams would be a lot more aggressive in the overtimes, rather than playing conservatively and trying not to make a mistake.

This match was a great advertisement for soccer in America, so I'm sure it won't prompt any change. But it should.

14 Responses:

michael said...

I couldn't agree more. I don't follow soccer so I don't know if it is the same rule, but I know in the World Cup they have a "no golden goal" rule where you play the 30 minute OT session, and you play the entire 30 minutes regardless of if a team scores or not. I think that just lining up 30 minute sessions with it being sudden death would be awesome, and would definitely add more intrugue.

J-Red said...

Unfortunately, I think this is always going to be in the nature of soccer. Of the goal-scoring sports, soccer has by far the lowest scoring output. If you can get 4OT games in hockey, where there are far more players and the rink is so much smaller, I could foresee literally never-ending soccer matches.

Remember, the defenders and goalies don't have to move as much. It actually gets harder to score as the game goes on.

Anonymous said...

Always thought that alternating corner kicks with each chance continuing until the ball goes OB or is possessed or cleared by the other team would be both more exciting and more soccer-y.

Brien said...

What if they removed a player from each side at the start of each OT period? I'd think it would be easier to score 7-on-7.

"ben" said...

Regarding Brien's last comment, taking men off the field to open it up still leaves you with the problem of it not being real soccer anymore. You play a whole game with, uh, a certain number of players, and then decide the championship with fewer players? (I take it soccer is not usually 7-on-7).

That's not real soccer!

Correct me if I'm wrong, J-Red, but NHL does 4-on-4 in the regular season, but not the playoffs.

Besides, I think 7-on-7 could still take forever in soccer after they've just played a whole match. Why don't they reduce to something like, oh, I don't know, 1-on-1?

Oh, wait, they did.

J-Red said...

That's correct. In the NHL OT is 4-on-4 for 5 minutes before a shootout in the regular season. In the playoffs OT is 20 minutes at 5-on-5.

I really like the alternating corner kicks idea. It involves all 22 players, uses regular game soccer skills, and allows for some spectacular goals. I would like to see it in alternating possession format though, like college football OT. Can you imagine the tension if one team scores and the other team HAS to score a goal on a corner kick to prolong a championship? If they converted wives would be beaten, televisions destroyed, heart attacks suffered. It would be awesome.

J-Red said...

Of course, soccer is played 11 on 10, 10 on 9, 10 on 10, etc. due to red cards.

big tuna said...

It seems like the players would be ok with the soccer game ending in a tie as long as it got them to the orange slices and juice boxes quicker.

big tuna said...

In all seriousness, if they ever had a shootout decide an NHL playoff game, I think I would puke. It is bad enough it is in the regular season. I can't speak for any soccer fans, but I imagine the purists feel the same way that I do about hockey.

Jeremy said...

They should each get to start the ball at midfield and alternate possessions. Take the ball at midfield, attack the other end, and if you score, you win, if the other team takes possession, they get the ball at midfield. No reason why American college football can't equal European football.

Russell said...

I wouldn't mind seeing alternating direct free kicks from just outside the box. The biggest problem I have with penalty kicks is that it's purely random. The goalie's pretty much guessing. At least in a hockey shootout, there's some skill involved. How about having a shootout where being able to "bend it like Beckham" matters?

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading this as I'm an English football (soccer!) fan. I'm a United season ticket holder so naturally I am delighted about Wednesday night, but I agree with this article to a great extent. Penalties are an awful way of deciding a match (being English I have much experience of losing on penalties!). However some of the suggestions here are not viable because of the nature of football. For example, the suggestion that each side should take corner kicks or free kicks is worse, because it favours teams that have tall players and dead ball specialists, and a team with these attributes (attributes which you don't necessarily need to make a good team) would just try and close out extra time without attempting to attack, so that this situation would arise. Ideally, you want teams to be attacking in extra time because they are scared about the prospect of what comes next, which is indiscriminate. The point about penalties is they are pretty indiscriminate. They don't favour teams with particular attributes- other than being able to be cool under pressure, and possibly have a good goalkeeper- but these are attributes that are necessary for a team anyway, unlike having tall players or something. So it is better to test these attributes. Still, penalties are definitely an inadequate solution.

J-Red said...

But if you want it to be truly indiscriminate you would just flip a coin.

Following your logic, penalty kicks are unacceptable because they favor teams with quick reacting and/or taller goaltenders, a trait not needed to be a good team if the team plays excellent defense and the goaltender positions himself well.

At least corner kicks involve the actual playing of soccer and as many players as possible.

Anonymous said...

Okay, look, it's baffling to hear everyone bad mouthing the rules of the game. Face it guys, it's a rule, and like all rules it needs to be implemented in strategy.

First, let's talk about the time they're playing. In the 100+ minutes they've been playing, the game has not been decided meaning something has to change. The players are tired and now everyone is counting on tired hands (or feet rather).

Second, it's a strategy to play towards the shootout. It's not at all like shooting freethrows or a homerun contest, as there is, in fact, a goalie in your way. I've seen incredible saves before. If you don't like that strategy, I hate that football teams are allowed to kneel the ball to runout the clock. They should have to keep going. Pitchers in baseball shouldn't be allowed to walk the heavy hitters. I don't complain about those because I appreciate the fact that it's strategy. If you have faith that your goalie is better than theirs, and your strikers are better than their, then why shouldn't you be allowed to play to that advantage.

Finally, let's look at the goalie. Where soccer is a teamsport, the goalie is an individual player who was selected because they were the person who could play the position. It's obvious that it's high pressure, but that's what they are there to do. By taking out shootouts, you could basically say, "Well I don't really need that great a goalie, because if the rest of the team does their job, I don't have to have a good goalie".

Rules are there for a reason, to be exploited. If you don't like a rule, don't change it, otherwise a kneel in football should be an automatic turnover.

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