Time to End the Heartache of Penalty Shoot-outs?

Schweinsteiger reacts after missing his penalty in the Champions League final. (Taken from The Guardian)

The Champions League Final of 2012 will be remembered for a number of things, such as Didier Drogba’s remarkable headed goal and Arjen Robben’s penalty miss, but above all the drama of the penalty shootout at the end of yet another drawn major final will live longest in the memory.

Such conclusions are exciting and nail-biting, but isn’t it time the football world came up with a better way to decide the winners of such a prestigious competition?

Replays are out of the question of course, because of the sheer logistics of staging another game in the days following the first one. There have been many suggestions in the past concerning ways to finish games with a definite winner, and I’d like to propose my own version. My solution simply involves keeping the match going until a team scores… but with a twist.

When extra time begins, the match continues for five minutes, and if no team has found the net then each manager will select one player from the opposition to be removed from the field. They won’t be able to select the goalkeepers, but anyone else could be chosen. Then if no winner has emerged after another five minutes another player will then be selected from each side to head to the bench.

Eventually, the teams could be reduced to only four or five players per side, and on a huge football pitch the available space will ensure plenty of goal opportunities. Soon, one of the teams will be bound to score. The action will be fast and furious, and the eventual winners will know they didn’t just secure victory because they held their nerve in a lottery based on penalty-taking.

Such a scenario would make for an exciting spectacle for the crowd and TV audiences around the world, and would involve some important decision-making for managers. It may be that bosses would look to remove the greatest threats to their team as soon as possible, or they may choose to keep certain players ON the field purely because they look particularly tired or are not having a good match.

In the recent Champions League Final, the options facing Roberto Di Matteo and Jupp Heynckes would have been intriguing, especially under the increasing pressure of having to make major decisions every five minutes. 

Should the Bayern Munich boss remove Didier Drogba? Or perhaps Fernando Torres, a striker who had only joined the match as a fresh-legged substitute towards the end of the 90 minutes?

The Chelsea manager would have to decide whether to take off the highly influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger instead of the dangerous striker Mario Gomez. To add to the intrigue, neither boss would be told in advance of the other man’s decision. 

Personally, I think this system would be a huge improvement to the penalty shoot-out scenario, and I think it should be at least trialed in a competition soon.

David Showell is from the UK and has grown a little tired with penalty shoot-outs. He works for a car rental company that offers excellent deals to drivers in Austria.

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