Life from 12 yards: Zico’s Farewell

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.


Player: Zico, Brazil
Opponent Goalkeeper: Joel Bats, France
Match Venue & Date: Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico, 21st June, 1986, World Cup Quarterfinal, 75th Minute.

In the 2nd episode of this ongoing series of missed penalties, we bring you a penalty that left even the opponent team players in disbelief. When he was approaching towards the spot to take the kick, the goal was a foregone conclusion. The act just needed to happen. Then the disaster happened.
Let us go back to context of the match leading up to the penalty. Brazil faced France in the quarter-final of 1986 world cup, and the match up was a real high-profile one. France was reigning European Nations Cup champion and Brazil arguably had the strongest line-up since they last won the world cup on 1970. Both the teams were high on confidence and full of star players. Football lovers across the world felt this was too good of a match-up to happen before final.
The match lived up to the expectation and had a lively first half. Careca gave Brazil the lead on 17th minute only for France to equalize through Michael Platini on 41st minute. 2nd half was as entertaining as the 1st one. Brazil came very close of scoring again as Careca’s header crashed into the cross-bar. Tele Santana, the Brazilian coach was desperate for goal, and brought in Arthur Antunes Coimbra, the talismanic No. 10, popularly known as Zico, in place of Muller, on 71st minute of the match. Zico, nicknamed as “White Pele” was playing his last world cup, and despite the age of 33, he was still a threat around opponent’s penalty box.
Brazilian fans were angry to see their hero on the bench, and were finally delighted to see him on the pitch, their hero sprang into action almost right after coming onto the field. Branco played a one-two wall pass with Zico and then continued a run inside the French penalty area. French goal-keeper Joel Bats sensed the danger and rushed from his line only to foul Branco. Referee Ioan Igna awarded penalty in favor of Brazil.

Though Brazil had Careca and Socrates on the pitch, who converted two penalties on their previous match in round of 16 against Poland, this time Zico stepped up to the spot to take the penalty. It was probably the rotation policy of penalty takers in Brazilian squad that prompted the decision along with Zico’s outstanding record from the penalty spot. Zico had missed only two penalties in his career, and was considered the master of the dreaded spot. Joel Bats himself probably was not too confident himself about saving the penalty either seeing Zico walking up to the spot. Branco walked towards Zico and said something in his ear as he was placing the ball in the spot. Joel Bats was standing right in the middle of the goal line, hands in his knees, looking at the ball in the spot.
Zico did not have a big run up. He was standing two-step to the left of the spot facing the goal. He bent down a little, took two small steps and shoot the ball low, almost close to ground level, towards little left of Joel Bats.
Bats was probably expecting this. The way Zico stood before penalty, Bats was almost certain that the shot was coming to his left. Zico was more of a placer, rather than a blaster of penalty shots, so if Zico would have to shoot towards Bats’ right, he would have to blast the penalty. Zico generally did not do that, so Bats’ guess was correct.
Bats probably thought that Zico would shoot it low in the left hand corner, and he had to stretch a lot to save the shot. But when he saw that Zico’s shot was not that wide, and a weak push towards his middle-left, Bats gleefully went down and saved the penalty with his left hand. The rebound fell on Careca who shot it wide amidst pressure from French defence.
The whole world along with Tele Santana, Brazil fans, Zico himself along with French supporters were shocked by the turn of the event. No one expected “Rooster” to miss a penalty. Platini went on to tap on Zico’s shoulder to console him right after the penalty. Brazil would have won it had the penalty gone in. It ended 1-1 after 120 minutes. Zico scored in the penalty shoot-out, but Socrates’ shot was saved by Joel Bats, this time diving to his right, during the shoot-out. Brazil lost 4-5 to France to bow out of the world cup, as Julio Cesar hit the post and Fernandez scoring the winning penalty for France. Incidentally, Michael Platini, who was the first person to console Zico when he missed the penalty in the regulation time, would miss his spot-kick during the shoot-out, though his miss did not cost France the match.
Zico retired from the national team after 1986 world cup with 71 matches and 48 goals to his credit. He was one of the finest footballers to have played the game, won many accolades, but, somehow, his “missed-penalty” in his last international match lingered for ever in the mind of football lovers across the globe.