Life From 12 Yards: Palermo Misses

Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings. A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and hope or satisfaction for others. Football, is no exception. Goalden Times bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.You can read the other stories of the Copa America series here

Image Source -
Image Source –

Player: Martin Palermo, Argentina
Opponent Goalkeeper: Miguel Calero, Colombia
Match Venue & Date: Estadio Feliciano Cáceres, Luque, Paraguay, 4th July, 1999, Copa America Group C.

As we have already illustrated in our “missed penalty” series, missing a penalty in a football match makes a heavy dent in the confidence of the player and can demoralize the player with long lasting effect. Now consider this: if this happens three times in a match! Imagine missing three penalties in a single match! Imagine how severe that effect can be on the player’s mind.

In the fifth segment of our missed penalty series, we bring you the story of Martin Palermo,the player who missed three penalties in a single match – against Colombia, in the group stages of Copa America 1999. Martin Palermo is an interesting character, with a career marked with many interesting incidents. But this one would be near the top of any list of football related trivia.

Argentina faced Colombia in the second  match of the Group C in 1999 Copa America on 4th of July in Estadio Feliciano Cáceres, Luque, Paraguay. Both the teams had won their inaugural matches. Argentina was going through a transition under the coach Marcelo Bielsa. Key players like Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo were not available, and Martin Palermo along with Killy Gonzalez shared the duty of forward line.

In total five  penalties were awarded in that match, and only one was scored. Palermo missed three, Hamilton Ricard of Colombia missed one. Ivan Cordoba of Colombia was the only one who could convert his penalty.

Now let us move on to the penalties that were missed by Palermo.  The first penalty was awarded to Argentina as early as the fifth minute. Palermo tried to connect to a cross from the left wing with his head. Alexander Viveros, the Colombian defender tried to be too clever by putting his hand up in the air to defect the ball. Referee caught the infringement and awarded a penalty to Argentina. Palermo himself stepped up to take the penalty. Goalkeeper Miguel Calero stayed in  the middle of the goal line, and was jumping a little towards either side from his position. Whenever goalkeepers do this, there is a general tendency to shoot down the middle, in anticipation that the goalkeeper is committed to dive in one direction.

Palermo struck the penalty with his left foot. Goalkeeper Calero, after his initial topsy turvy dances, chose to dive to his left, after an initial step towards the right. This is again a common choice by the keepers, as generally when shooters take a penalty with the left foot, they try to place it to the keeper’s left, i.e. the shooters right.

Palermo probably read the mind of Calero too, and hit an elevated shot placed slightly to the right of the centre. His placement and thinking were correct, but the shot had a little more power than what he would have liked, and it hit the cross-bar and went out. Palermo stepped back, without displaying too much frustration.

Within three minutes, Ivan Cordoba scored for Colombia via his spot-kick. Colombia had another penalty kick awarded to them in the 47th minute, but this time German Burgos, the Argentine keeper, saved Hamilton Ricard’s effort. It is not clear why Ricard, instead of Cordoba, took that penalty. May be they believed in rotation. Argentina did not believe in rotation though. So Martin Palermo again stepped up to take the second penalty that was awarded to Argentina in the 76th minute, with a chance to level the match 1-1. This time also Viveros handled the ball, as Palermo was trying head in a Juan Riquelme cross. Colombians argued with Referee Ubaldo Aquino, but to no avail. Marcelo Bielsa was really excited on the sideline, and apparently pointed to Palermo asking him to take the penalty.

This penalty was actually almost a mirror image of the earlier penalty. Same sort of topsy turvy movement by Calero, but instead of diving to his left, he dove to his right this time. Palermo again chose the right direction. This shot was again elevated, but this time, a little to the left from the centre of the goal. The placement and thinking was correct but the execution again was not perfect.The elevation was a few inches higher than Palermo’s plan and this time the ball went over the cross-bar. Palermo put his hand on head, visibly frustrated this time.

If you read Palermo’s psychology, he almost stuck to the same plan, and managed to outwit the goalkeeper both the times. But in both cases, he was may be a bit too excited and imparted too much power. One basic tactical mistake he made was that, in both cases, he chose to hit the ball with power, when he knew he will shoot above the ground, almost down the middle. Generally when penalties are taken down the middle with elevation, too much power is not good, as there is always a chance that the shot will fly above the cross-bar. We have seen it in the cases of Roberto Baggio and Asamoah Gyan. Both the penalties by Palermo were missed due to the same mistake.

Things that were happening in this match had frustrated the otherwise cool-headed Javier Zanetti, who received the only red card in his Albicelestes career in this match in the 69th minute. If that was not enough, what followed was even worse for Argentina.

Coming back to the match, Edwin Congo and Johnnier Montano scored for Colombia on 79 and 87 minutes to give Colombia a 3-0 lead, and the match was almost over for Argentina. But nevertheless, the Albicelestes were fighting hard, and in the 90th minute, Palermo received a through ball from midfield, and continued his run towards the Colombian penalty box. Probably the urge to make up for the missed penalties was strong in his mind, as Palermo fell down inside the penalty box after a very gentle shoulder push from Cordoba on his back. The Paraguayan referee Aquino was also probably desperate to see Palermo score at least one penalty in the match. He himself was probably feeling let down by the fact that only one penalty was converted among the four awarded by him during the match. Thus he awarded this last penalty and more than Palermo, referee himself probably wished that Palermo will take the third penalty and would convert this time.

Palermo stood outside the box, taking deep breaths, licking his lips probably to calm his nerves. Calero was doing the customary initial topsy turvy movements. Palermo stepped up to take the shot, with his left foot. Now let us pause and try to read into Palermo’s mind at that moment. The previous two shots were down-the-middle, elevated ones that missed the target vertically. So he would be understandably wary of repeating the same routine and would shoot closer to the ground. Now Palermo had to decide which way he would shoot it, left or right. He would get more power with his left foot (yes power was always in his mind whether it is  a grounder or above the ground) if he shoots to the left of the goalkeeper, that is to his right. So he decided to shoot to the goalkeeper’s left.

Calero misread the previous two attempts which went over the bar. This time he guessed it correctly. Palermo’s shot was close to the ground, towards the left of the keeper. But Palermo should have placed the shot a little more towards the corner. It seemed Palermo was always wary of placing the ball towards the corner, as he may have been afraid of shooting wide. This penalty was not far from the middle, and Carelo easily saved the shot diving to his left. It was difficult to say who was more frustrated after the penalty, referee Aquino or Palermo himself.

It was difficult to say who was more frustrated after the penalty, referee Aquino or Palermo himself.

Argentina lost the match 0-3, qualified to the next round as group runners up behind Colombia, faced Brazil in quarterfinal, and bowed out of the tournament losing 1-2 to their arch-rivals. If all of Palermo’s penalties would have gone in, Argentina would have avoided Brazil in quarterfinal.

Palermo had a colourful football career. He scored more than 100 goals for Boca Juniors, he once broke his leg celebrating a goal for Villarreal. He came back from exile to score a last second goal against Peru to put Argentina into the 2010 world cup finals, and became the oldest Argentine to score a goal for Argentina when he scored against Greece in the 2010 World Cup. (Incidentally this goal broke the record of Diego Maradona, Argentina’s manager in the 2010 World Cup,who was until then was the oldest Argentine to score in a world cup, also against Greece in 1994). But as long as football and its crazy moments will endure, people will remember Martin “Loco” Palermo for the “alternative hat trick” against Colombia in a dreadful night in Asuncion.

Life From 12 Yards: Gyan’s miss fail to put Ghana in history books

Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings. A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and hope or satisfaction for others. Football, is no exception. Goalden Times bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.

Image Source - Daily Maverick
Image Source – Daily Maverick

Player : Asamoah Gyan, Ghana.

Opponent Goalkeeper: Fernando Muslera, Uruguay.

Match venue and date: Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa, Quarter-final, World Cup, 2nd July, 2010.

In the  fourth segment of the series, we bring you the story of a missed penalty, which had far more long lasting implications than just on the result of the match. Football in Africa was about to enter among the elites in the, for the first time ever, an African nation was about to enter the semi-final of the world cup. Only that penalty needed to be converted. But, as we have portrayed so far in this series, life from 12 yards is not easy, life from 12 yards does not go according to the plan. The gap between cup and lips, however small it may seem at times, are sometimes impossible to close.

In the build-up to the dreaded moment, we actually had a fascinating football match. Football in world cup 2010 was not particularly a scintillating affair, and more so in the knockout rounds, we did not have evenly contested exciting matches. The quarter-final encounter between Uruguay and Ghana was a different affair. From the very onset of the match, it was full of attacks and counter-attacks, and close misses. Suleh Muntari gave Ghana the lead with a stunning 35 yarder just with the last shot before half-time, but Diego Forlan, who was in red-hot form during 2010 world cup and eventual golden-ball winner, equalized on the 10th minute after the break, with a curling free-kick from just outside the box.

Though the match had many more goal-bound attempts, brilliant saves and close shaves, it failed to produce any more goal in the regular 90 minutes of play. The story remained same in the added extra time, as the match was slowly headed towards penalty shoot-out. On the last minute of the extra time, Ghana had one last attack towards Uruguay goal, and after a miss-timed clearance by Fernando Muslera from a free-kick, Stephen Appiah shot the ball towards goal. Luis Suarez blocked it with his knee at the goal line, but the rebound lobbed up to Dominic Adiyiah, who headed the ball towards the goal. The Ghanaian supporters present all over the world was about to erupt in joy, when they saw a player in Uruguay goal line saved the ball with both hands. Nope, the guy who saved the ball was not goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, but it was Luis Suarez!! This time instead of using knee or other body parts, he had to use his hands to keep his country’s hope at the world cup alive. Referee could not be quicker enough to show him the red card and awarded a penalty to Ghana. With what would be the last shot of the match, Ghana could become the first ever African nation to enter the semi-finals of the world cup. How we wish that life would have been that simple.

Asamoah Gyan walked up to take the penalty. Asamoah Gyan had already scored three goals in that world cup, and had 100% conversion rate from two previous penalties, one against Serbia and another against Australia in the group stages. Against Serbia his shot was about two feet above the ground, and towards the right side of the keeper, while the keeper dove left. Against Australian keeper Mark Schwartzer , his shot was a grounder , towards the bottom left corner of the goalkeeper, and again the goalkeeper dove towards the wrong direction. He was a good penalty taker, and did not provide any clue to the keeper till the last moment. It was difficult for the keeper to guess which Gyan was going to shoot, looking at his eyes. Gyan had already scored four  international penalty goals till that time, so the whole Ghana nation along with the players were pretty much confident about their progress to the semi-final.

Asamoah Gyan had already scored three goals in that world cup, and had 100% conversion rate from two previous penalties

Fernando Muslera, the Uruguayan goalkeeper was actually no mutt with penalties. He was playing with Lazio at that time and made them Copa Italia Cup winners by saving two penalties in the penalty shoot-out at the final against Sampdoria. When Asamoah Gyan was getting ready to take the penalty, there was a lot of tension among the players, and a few players were walking inside the box to distract the player. Referee had to clear the penalty box before asking Gyan to shoot. Just before the whistle, Andres Scotti, the Uruguayan defender made a signal with his right hand towards Muslera. It was not clear what he wanted to mean, but it seemed that he suggested the ball would be above the ground, it would be a high shot. It was exactly that in the end.

Gyan did not have a long run up, maximum up to three to four steps from the spot. Muslera was still, right at the centre of the goal line. He did not give any indication towards which side he is going to dive till the last minute, which probably forced Gyan to shoot the ball almost down the middle, and above the ground. Muslera finally dove to his right, but his dive was so late that Gyan already has struck his shot by the time Muslera made the decisive move.

Now let us look at the penalty from Gyan’s point of view. Gyan could have placed it on either side of the goal, choosing placement over power. But it was a nervous moment. Any penalty is a nervous moment for the shooter, no matter how calm the player remains outside. But there is added pressure on the shooter when he knows that his shot is the last shot of the match, and can put his team in world cup semi-final. This would be the first time for Ghana in world Cup semi-final. This would be the first time for any nation from the “Dark Continent in world cup semi-final.  It is difficult to think logically in these kinds of pressure situations.

Owing to this pressure, Gyan might have decided to blast it rather than place it. He probably knew about Muslera’s reputation of saving penalties, and thus feared that may be a placement on either side of the goal may result in a save by the keeper. Thus he chose the safer option, a shot above the ground, down the middle, so that even if the goalkeeper guesses correctly and outstretches his leg, the ball will be in the net.

Source -
Source –

Gyan’s shot was above the ground, not exactly down the middle, but may be a foot towards right from the middle of the goal. Muslera dove to his right, and saw that the ball was travelling towards middle of the goal as he was falling to the ground. But the ball was six  inches higher than the liking of Gyan, and the whole Ghana nation. The placement was almost right, but the power was a bit too much. The trajectory of the ball should have been six  inches low. The ball hit the upper part of the crossbar and went out of the ground. Uruguay survived; a jubilant Suarez went inside the tunnel knowing that his “innovative” and “impromptu” action has managed to save Uruguay from going out of the world cup. Gyan was in shambles, being consoled by the team members. History would have to wait for Africa.

The match went to penalty shoot-out. Diego Forlan gave Uruguay lead but Asamoah Gyan, brave man he is, walked up to take the first spot kick for Ghana. This time he struck it towards the left upper corner of the keeper, and despite guessing the direction correctly, Muslera had no chance of saving it. Gyan did not celebrate the goal, only thinking that had he made similar decisions a few minutes ago, this penalty shoot-out would not have happened.

Fate is a cruel thing. This time John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah missed penalties in the shoot-out, both the shots being weak grounders which were saved by Muslera. The whole nation cried, the whole Africa cried. Uruguay celebrated. Ghana lost out of the world cup losing 2-4 on penalties, after the match was tied 1-1.


Life from 12 yards: Baggio’s Blunder

 Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings.  A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and  hope  or satisfaction for  others. Football, is no exception. Goalden Times  bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.


Missed Penalty 1 :

Player: Roberto Baggio, Italy

Opponent Goalkeeper: Claudio Taffarel, Brazil

Match Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, USA

Date: 17th July, 1994,

Tournament: World Cup Final, Penalty shoot-out

As earlier mentioned in the promo, we will bring to you “the missed penalty” series, and will discuss the aftermath of the event, broader implications of those missed penalties had on the life of the players, and on football in general. This week, we bring the first incident of the series, and arguably the most talked about penalty miss in the history of football – “The Roberto Baggio” miss in 1994 World Cup Final at Pasadena, Rose Bowl, USA.

Before we actually go into the details, let us just build up to the match. Football is a team game, and often we see that World Cups are won by teams whose players stick together and play together throughout the tournament. Individual brilliances are all right, but seldom they alone win tournaments like World Cup. Diego Maradona was, and will remain as exception.

In 1994, Roberto Baggio came very close to it. Italy lost their first match to Ireland in the World Cup. They defeated Norway and drew against Mexico to come up as third in their group. Italy  qualified as the last team to go through to the next round and that too because of scoring more goals than Norway. But from the round of 16 onwards, Roberto Baggio took charge of events. Italy first defeated Nigeria 2-1 while trailing till 88th minute, then defeated Spain in the quarter-final and Bulgaria in the semi-final via identical 2-1 margin. Roberto Baggio scored five of the six Italian goals in these three rounds, while a certain lesser known Luigi di Biagio scored the other one. He was the main architect of carrying Azzuris to the World Cup Final after 12 years, where they faced Brazil.

The final match itself never rose to great heights. Brazil had plethora of attackers in their ranks, and Bebeto, Romario were well supported by Mazinho, Zinho, Dunga and later Viola. Gianluca Pagliuca made a series of saves and got lucky a few times as well. Baggio was rather ineffective during the match, and did not get a lot of supply from the midfield. Italy however managed to survive for 120 minutes, and the match headed towards penalty shoot out.

It was not the most fluent set of penalties taken by the players of both teams. Franco Baresi missed, Gianluca Pagliuca saved Marcio Santos’ shot. Then Romario and Branco for Brazil and Albertini and Evani for Italy converted to make it 2-2 at the end of 3 rounds.  Danielle Massaro’s shot was saved by Taffarel and Dunga converted the next shot to make it 3-2 in favour of Brazil.

Roberto Baggio stepped up to the spot to take the final spot kick for Italy. He had to score to keep the shoot-out alive. According to him, he was in great state of mind, and was confident of scoring the goal. Baggio said that he knew Taffarel would dive to either side of the goal, so he decided to shoot it down the middle, a little above the ground, so that even an outstretched leg of Tafarel would not be able to save it.

Baggio did shoot down the middle, but the shot was a “little too much” above the ground, about three metres above, and flew over the bar. Taffarel did dive to the left, and had the ball was within the goalpost, it would have been a clear goal.

But, in Football, there is no place of “would haves and could haves”. The shot was over and out, Italy’s hope of winning the world cup was over and out. Brazil won the cup after 24 years.

Baggio stood still at the penalty spot even after Brazilian contingent rushed inside the field and started the jubilation. He was in complete disbelief. He rarely missed penalties in his career up to that point. The image of the distraught Baggio went viral through media. Some sympathised with him, some did not. His relationship with Arrigo Sacchi deteriorated after the World Cup and he found himself on the reserve bench more often than usual. Emergence of Alessandro Del Piero also meant that he was not the main scoring person in national team. He would come back and play for Italy in 1998 world cup, scoring two goals including one from penalty against Chile. But Italy would again lose to France via shoot-out (Baggio did score this time).


Roberto Baggio has achieved a lot of things in his career. But his international career has always been divided in two parts. Roberto Baggio before that dreaded penalty was a different player than Roberto Baggio after that miss. He scored 24 goals in 44 appearances for Italy till that penalty. Afterwards, he appeared only 12 times for his country, and scored only three goals. He has scored more than 300 goals in all official competitions, won several accolades like FIFA player of the year, Serie A, Copa Italia, UEFA Cup. But Roberto Baggio, along with all his achievements, will also be remembered for that penalty he failed convert in a sunny afternoon, in Rose Bowl, Pasadena on 17th July, 1994.

Missed Penalty: The story behind lost opportunities

Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings.  A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and  hope  or satisfaction for  others.. Football, is no exception.

John Terry misses a penalty 21/5/2008

Football is a sport which appears to be simple  and has a lot of similarities with life. There  are friends, there  are opponents, there  are obstacles, there  is injustice (sometimes the unbelievable kinds), there are rough edges, there is, joy and there is sorrow. There is a goal to reach, which some achieve, some don’t.  And like in life, if you break rules, you have to pay for it. The extent of punishment depends on the extent of wrong-doing. There are direct and indirect free-kicks, but if you break the law inside the secured 18-yard zone, you pay the ultimate price — a penalty.

This is one act inside the football field that is unique in nature. The team that is awarded the penalty, beams with  hope that they will score the goal. The team that has conceded the penalty, often tries to justify that the referee has made a mistake. After they realize their words are falling into deaf ears, they turn their attention to the goalkeeper, who  at that moment is their only savior, on the ground. Spectators wait with bated breath and some even hold it till the shot is taken!

We, as football lovers, have experienced many many moments like this. Taking penalty is an art, and not everybody can master it. It is more about reading the mind and understanding the psychology of the taker/keeper than physical abilities. Within that one second, you have to go inside the head of the taker/keeper, and act accordingly. There have been some great penalty takers this game has seen. Somehow, it is expected that the taker will beat the keeper from 12 yards. The keeper is hailed as a hero if he saves the shot. But the player who misses it is sometimes left scarred for life. We, at Goalden Times,  bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Here is a dekko at where stalwarts of the game, nervous newcomers, dead-ball maestros failed to convert the spot-kick and plunged their team and supporters into sorrow and disbelief. Once in every two weeks, we will highlight one key penalty that has been missed and will discuss the match situation, player, the events leading to the penalty and eventually the miss. So hold your breath,watch out for this column,it will be as exciting as the penalty ! Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.