As odd as the use of penalty kick shootouts to break World Cup ties may seem to soccer novices like myself, the drama that unfolded Saturday at the end of the Brazil-Chile match was undeniable.
I was riveted as each of the five Brazilians and Chileans selected to carry the weight of their teams’ fortunes lined up just 12 yards from the goal to take their free kicks.
And while the pressure is surely on those attempting the kicks, I found myself focusing on the pressure the goalies must be going through.
I’ve tried to think of a better way to break the ties, and the only idea that seemed plausible to me is sudden death.
As it is, when a World Cup soccer match is tied at the end of regulation, the teams play two 15-minute periods, but it’s not sudden death.
If a team were to score in the first extra period, they still have to play out the extra time.
If the score is still tied after the two extra periods, they go to the shootout.
And as dramatic as the shootout was between Brazil and Chile on Saturday, Sunday’s shootout between Greece and Costa Rica was almost anticlimactic.
Maybe because in Saturday’s shootout, the goalies managed to block some of the early kicks.
On Saturday, each of the first three kickers for each side scored.
Then, Costa Rica made their fourth kick, followed by a miss by Greece.
That set the stage for a small amount of drama since Costa Ricans knew if their guy was successful on the final attempt, they would advance.
He did, and they did.
As grueling as a soccer match is, I could see a scenario where ties and breaking the ties in a sudden death format could turn into survival of the fittest.
I know the concept won’t always work for the networks televising the events, but eventually, if two teams just kept playing, one of them is bound to score a goal.
On the other hand, perhaps the only people complaining about FIFA’s method for breaking tie are the fans of the losing side.
I’m hoping that when the U.S. plays Belgium on Tuesday, the Americans are up by at least a goal when the referee blows his whistle shortly after the 90th minute.