Spot on: Four of the best (and four of the worst) penalty kicks of all-time

In honour of the Awana Scuff – the UAE’s answer to the Panenka – we’ve compiled a list of four of the most innovative penalties ever taken, matching each with one of its failed imitations. Brilliance and mortification in equal measure.

THEYAB AWANA MAY have looked mightily pleased with himself after scoring his fancy-pants penalty at the weekend, but for every spot-kick that goes the way of YouTube on account of its novelty and bravery, there’s an epic FAIL waiting in the wings.

Here are four examples of penalty-taking innovation, each one matched with an equivalent moment of public humiliation.

1. Antonin Panenka

When it comes to identifying iconic penalty kicks, few can pretend to the sort of status as Antonin Panenka’s effort at the 1976 European Championship. Faced with a penalty to carry his native Czechosloavkia to the title, Panenka took an aggressive tilt at the ball, only to deftly lob a chip straight down the middle.

Panenka’s genius hasn’t just spawned a raft of classy imitations (Sebastian Abreu, anyone?), but an even greater number of hilarious failures. Never one to take failure gracefully, Francesco Totti’s miss against Lecce in 2007 must rank among the most satisfying of the latter category. Mmmm… schadenfreude.

2. Johann Cruyff

With his Ajax team safely on track to hammer Helmand Sport in 1982, Johann Cruyff decided to work a little bit of magic from the penalty spot. Rather than striking the ball at goal, the Dutch legend rolled it into the path of an on-rushing team-mate. A couple of nonchalant passes around a monumentally confused goalkeeper later and the ball rested in the back of the net.

It may have been arrogant, disrespectful, even brought the game into disrepute, but Cruyff’s showboating was just too smooth to hate. Robert Pires and Thierry Henry’s shambolic attempt emulate the great man? Well, it was a whole lot easier to dislike.

3. Joonas Jokinen

When Joonas Jokinen, an unheralded member of Swiss club FC Baar’s youth team stepped up to take a penalty in a match against FC Sempach last year, few had any idea that the youngster was about to boot his way to immortality. Thrashing a shot high into the left side of the net, Jokinen allowed the momentum of his right leg to carry him into a backflip. Over six million views later, the video of the stunt has become the stuff of viral video legend.

Superfluous acrobatics from the penalty spot may be a recipe for instant acclaim, but needless acrobatics from goalkeepers rarely prove as successful. For proof, take this example from an American intervarsity game between Stony Brook University and Hartford, where Hartford’s goalkeeper tries (unsuccessfully) to use cartwheels as tool of intimidation.

Gavin Cooney
Reports From Qatar

Get Gavin's exclusive writing and analysis from the 2022 Fifa World Cup

Become a Member

4. Ezequiel Calvente

In a match against Italy during last year’s under-19 European Championship, Spain’s Ezequiel Calvente scored a penalty kick that instantly granted him the right to go by his first name alone. A marvel of technical prowess, Ezequiel’s tricksy left-footed strike seemed to defy the laws of physics and heaped humiliation onto an already dejected Italian side. Weirdly, it only just emerged as Spain’s most impressive set-piece of the tournament.

Few have ever attempted to match Ezequiel’s effort, let alone publicly; to do so would be to risk your effort trickle towards the corner flag while nursing a shredded achilles tendon. It’s just not worth it. Should it ever happen, though, it probably wouldn’t look all that different from Mehmet Aurelio’s shocker for Besiktas in the Turkish league.

Rough justice: Player behind backheel penalty facing a ban?

How to buy a club: what did last night’s Dispatches programme allege?

About the author:

Read next: