Over the weekend Chelsea and Bayern Munich faced off in the UEFA Champions League final in a battle of two squads that many said should not have even been in the final. Bayern Munich knocked off Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid while Chelsea defeated Lionel Messi and favorites in the tournament, Barcelona in the semifinals. But both teams showed that they belonged by providing us all with a great final.
But both teams had their own way of proving that they belonged. In the end, Chelsea hoisted the trophy. But it took penalty kicks to decide the victor of this final. On the other bench, Bayern Munich probably felt that they had done everything that they could do to win the match, but they could not find the back of the net enough. For much of the match Bayern peppered Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech in the goal. In fact, Bayern outshot Chelsea twenty-four to six. They also had nineteen more corner kicks than Chelsea. If you just read those two stats alone you would have guessed that Bayern won at least 3-0. Soccer is a cruel game, though. At the end of regulation Bayern Munich found themselves tied 1-1.
The game went into extra time where Bayern had a chance to win it with a penalty kick, but it was not converted. So the game had to be decided by a round of penalty kicks. Chelsea ended up winning the Champions League final by scoring four penalty kicks to Bayern’s three. So the question here is, are penalty kicks a fair way to decide a champion?
Bayern Munich had four times more shots, twenty corners to Chelsea’s one, and was fouled twice as much but still ended up losing. Does that seem fair that the German squad obviously dominated the much, but because Chelsea capitalized on one break and played for penalty kicks the rest of the way that they should claim victory? No, it is not fair. But, like I said before soccer is a cruel, cruel game.
Can you imagine if baseball, basketball, or football tried something similar to penalties? Would football do field goal contests? Would basketball play Pig? Would baseball have a makeshift home run derby? While I think that arguing two separate sports is difficult it is the same principle. Those mini games deciding a championship does not prove that one team is better than the other.
Some fans may say that penalties give the underdogs hope to beat the juggernauts. I am always a fan of the underdog winning (unless for some reason Cleveland is favored), but as the weaker team I would not want to beat a team on a technicality. Of course if they put forth the effort to win and ended up going to penalty kicks that is a different story. I am merely talking about weak teams that stick ten players in their penalty box and defend all game hoping to go 0-0 through overtime and take their chances in the crap shoot we call PKs.
Other fans may argue that penalty kicks are the most exciting part of a soccer game. It is true that we as a country love to see scoring (just take a look at the NFL and all of the high-octane offenses), and the shooter has about an eighty percent success rate. However, if all we want to see is scoring then why play the 90+ minutes and overtimes before the PKs? Just go on the field, shoot the ball from the penalty spot, and be done with it. Does that sound exciting? Not to me.
As someone who has been a part of penalties in three championships (sadly losing two of them) in his soccer career, I can tell you that it is just as heartbreaking or thrilling to win or lose a championship whether it is in PKs or in regulation. But how does FIFA resolve this problem of penalties deciding championships? Maybe each overtime you could pull one player from each side until one team scores. It would certainly open the game up for scoring chances. However, soccer is very stubborn with its rules. Goal line technology is still widely debated because it might ruin the integrity of the game. So I do not see the overtime/penalties rules being changed…ever.
Ultimately, I hate that the game has to come down to PKs, but that is part of the beautiful game. There will be times when the weaker side will be victorious because of the dreaded twelve yard shots, but that’s just how the game goes.
How should tied soccer matches be decided? Will U.S. soccer ever adapt the game to gain more fans? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.
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