Germans perfect in World Cup shootouts
Hamburg: The World Cup quarter-final in South Africa between Germany and Argentina Saturday is a rematch of their last-eight clash in 2006, won by Germany on penalties.
The Germans have never lost a World Cup shootout. This is perhaps as it should be since penalty shootouts in football are a German invention.
The man credited with creating the penalty shootout 40 years ago is a former miner and football referee from Frankfurt named Karl Wald, who is now 94 years old.
‘I always had the feeling I was right,’ said Wald, who retired at 63. ‘It’s the only way to get a true sporting result. Everything else wasn’t really a solution.’
Until Wald came up with the idea of a shootout, matches still tied after extra time were mostly decided by flipping a coin or drawing lots.
At least one victim of the old rules, German ex-national squad member Hannes Loehr, agrees with Wald absolutely.
‘It didn’t have anything to do with football anymore - it was a lottery, pure and simple,’ recalled Loehr, referring to the legendary European Cup quarter-final in 1965 between his FC Cologne and Liverpool.
Both of the home/away legs ended 0-0, and a playoff on neutral soil was knotted 2-2 after extra time. So the referee flipped a coin, which landed upright on the muddy pitch. A second flip gave the victory to Liverpool.
Wald, who received his referee’s licence in 1936 and officiated more than 1,000 matches in 40 years, met with resistance to his idea at first. Bavarian Football Association leaders nixed it when he put it forward in 1970.
They agreed only after the majority of the association’s delegates said that they were in favour. The German Football Association (DFB) followed suit soon afterward, then the European association UEFA, and finally, in 1976, by the world controlling body FIFA.
The rest is history - and history yet to be made.
The first major tournament to be decided on penalties was the 1976 European Championship, when Germany lost to Czechoslovakia.
The first World Cup match that ended in a shootout was in 1982 in Spain, and again Germany were involved. This time the Germans won, beating France in the semi-final.
Germany also won penalty shootouts in the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 1996 European Championship, both times against England.
The only time that a World Cup final has been decided by penalties was in 1994 in the United States, when Brazil outshot Italy.
The late actor Peter Ustinov once described the penalty shootout thus: ‘A shootout is as if a great war is not decided by great tactics developed around a boardroom table, but by a bunch of chosen privates playing Russian Roulette.’