Penalty Shootouts at the FIFA World Cup

A World Cup match has been decided by penalties 22 times.

If 120 minutes of play isn’t enough to produce a winner, a match at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will come down to just a goalie, a shooter and the 12 yards separating the goal line from the penalty spot. The penalty kick shootout – used to break a tie in the tournament’s knockout rounds – can be the cruelest way for a team’s tournament to end … and it has haunted one nation in particular.

FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, officially introduced the penalty shootout as a tiebreaking measure for the 1978 edition of the tournament, though the first one didn’t occur until 1982, when West Germany defeated France in a semifinal match. The format for the shootout is as follows: Each side receives five shots, taken by different players and alternating between the two squads. Whichever team buries the most shots wins. If the teams are tied after five shots, they alternate until one team makes it and the other misses.

There have been 22 penalty kick shootouts in World Cup history. Six have occurred in the second round, 10 in the quarterfinal, four in the semifinal (including both semifinals in the 1990 World Cup, considered by many to be the worst in the tournament’s history) and two have decided the title. The first final to be decided via shootout was in 1994, when Brazil topped Italy thanks to Italian Roberto Baggio’s infamous miss.

The other final decided by shootout was in 2006, when Italy topped France 5-3 after a game in which French captain Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italian Marco Materazzi, earning a red card and rendering himself unavailable for the shootout. Fabio Grosso wound up sinking the winner for Italy.

That first shootout between West Germany and France is also tied for the longest shootout in World Cup history, going six rounds, the same length as a 1994 quarterfinal match won by Sweden over Romania. Several teams share the record for most goals scored in a single World Cup shootout at five, while Switzerland holds the dubious honor of scoring the fewest, failing to find the net at all in a second round loss to Ukraine in 2006.

Germany leads the way in terms of the most World Cup shootout goals overall, having scored 17 in 18 attempts. (This includes the total for West Germany; Germany started competing again as a unified country at the 1994 World Cup.) Next is France, with 15 in 20 attempts, followed by Italy and Spain, with 13 in 20 and 14 attempts, respectively.

Three teams – Belgium, South Korea and Paraguay – are perfect in World Cup penalty kick shootouts, having scored five goals on five attempts each. After Switzerland’s big zero, the next worst penalty taker is Mexico, having made just two of seven attempts, exiting the tournament via shootout in 1986 and 1994.

According to Planet World Cup, 13 different players have scored in two different World Cup shootouts, nine of whom did so by scoring in two different tournaments. As for the goalkeepers, Argentina's Sergio Goycochea and Brazil's Claudio Taffarel have been the most successful, guarding the net for five misses each.

Germany, France, Italy and Argentina have competed in the most World Cup shootouts, at four each, but Germany leads the way with four wins, followed by Argentina’s three. According to Calcio Cassini at Bettingexpert, the team shooting first has won 13 of the 22 shootouts, nearly 60 percent.

And the least successful shootout team in World Cup shootout history? That would be England, which is winless in three tries, getting bounced from the tournament via shootout in 1990, 1998 and 2006. Ouch.

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What do you think of penalty shootouts being the deciding factor for a lot of these matches? Also I am not ready for the heartbreak that it about to commence this weekend.