A penalty kick is one of the most high pressure situations in all of sport. In a team game, the pressure is suddenly put entirely on the penalty kick taker, facing off against a goalkeeper who has nothing to lose. From 12 yards, a professional soccer player should consistently convert a penalty kick, but as you will see, this is often not the case. Sometimes the pressure is too much for the taker and their nerves get the better of them, sometimes they get too cocky and try something overly complicated to trick the keeper, and sometimes the goalkeeper makes a fine save. Watching the penalty taker and goalkeeper face off often feels like a shootout scene from a Spaghetti western, and this has led to many memorable penalty kicks over the years, with a lot of these being memorable for the woeful attempt by the taker.
A penalty in a regular game will create plenty of drama that could change the match, but a penalty shootout is one of the more tense, nail biting and dramatic moments that you will ever see in sport, which is a large part of what makes soccer so popular. These penalties decide the game, and you will often see inexperienced, clearly shaken penalty takers step up to the spot as the showdown goes on and on. It is the cruellest way to lose a game, with many wanting to abolish the shootout, but for the neutral there is nothing more exciting than it all coming down to spot kicks. There have been plenty of high profile shootouts over the years as they are used in knockout competitions like the World Cup and the Champions League, with some players never quite recovering from a penalty miss that has let down their entire team, fans and sometimes even an entire nation.
Here are 10 of the most unforgettable penalty misses of all time. A few are unforgettable in terms of their shocking technique and comical approach, whilst a few will not be forgotten due to their importance and lasting impact.
Honourable Mention: David Trezeguet v Italy (2006 FIFA World Cup Final)
10 Amir Sayoud v Kima Aswan (2011)
An absolute shocking penalty miss for Amir Sayoud fortunately did not cost his team the game as they were winning by four goals, but this did little to save Sayoud’s blushes. Many players attempt to trick the keeper by stuttering before taking the penalty, but this proved to be too much to think about for Sayoud, who fell over as he tried to take the penalty, rolling the ball gently into the keepers arms. As if this wasn’t bad enough for the Algerian striker, he was then booked for disregarding the opponent.
9 Neymar v Columbia (2012)
Neymar could arguably be included twice in this list, but his extraordinary miss for his country is the more entertaining of the two. This penalty miss was so far over the bar that it was impressive how high he managed to kick the ball, with those in row Z in danger of getting hit. Neymar blamed the “unstable” pitch, which may have been a contributing factor, but the young superstar also had an over the top run up to the kick, which no doubt helped him to get such great height from 12 yards in what looked more like a punt than a penalty.
8 Chris Waddle v West Germany (1990)
Penalties have cursed the England football team for many years, with a number of high profile misses leading to their exit from the major tournaments. Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate, David Batty, David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Frank Lampard have all had disasters from the spot for the Three Lions, but it all began with Chris Waddle’s attempt in the 1990 World Cup semi finals. With a decisive penalty, Waddle took a long run up before blasting the ball well over the bar, ending England’s World Cup dreams and leaving Waddle devastated. From this moment on, the entire nation of England shudders each time it comes down to spot kicks.
7 Landon Donovan v Real Salt Lake (2009)
There are certain players that you expect to score when they step up for a penalty, and Landon Donovan is one of these players. So, in 2009 when the L.A Galaxy faced off with Real Salt Lake in penalties for the MLS Cup, everyone expected the leagues MVP to convert from the spot. Donovan hit the ball with conviction, but a little too much as it turned out, as his effort sailed miles over the bar. Real Salt Lake went on to win the shootout 5-4, and everyone watching was stunned at Donovan’s poor effort and the win for the underdogs.
6 Peter Devine v Whitley Bay (1992)
It is quite remarkable how wrong kicking a ball on a spot can go, and Peter Devine amazed everyone with his woeful penalty attempt in 1992, which looked like something out of a comedy sketch show. Devine managed to trip over his own feet on the run up, which caused him to scuff the ball as he took the penalty, and injured himself in the process. The ball moved a few feet in the direction of the goal and just about made it to the 6-yard box, and Devine was left nursing a bad leg and a bruised ego. This poor attempt is what the winger is now best remembered for.
5 Robert Pires v Manchester City (2006)
After converting a convincing penalty earlier in the game, Robert Pires thought that he would try a bit of an experiment when the referee pointed to the spot again in a game against Man City. In 1982 Johan Cruyff executed an unforgettable penalty where he passed the ball to a team mate running into the box, who then passed it back for Cruyff to score and leave the keeper stumped. Pires attempted to recreate this cheeky effort with Thierry Henry, but he only brushed the ball with his studs instead of making a forward pass. Henry sprinted into the box, but the ball had rolled back onto the penalty spot where it was cleared, with Pires unable to touch the ball again. Bizarre scenes and a risky strategy seeing as Arsenal were only a goal up, but they managed to hold on and win the game despite some embarrassment.
4 David Beckham v Portugal (2004)
You can’t have just one England penalty miss in a list of unforgettable misses, and this one from the Euro 2004 quarter finals may be the most memorable and painful for England fans. Another international tournament, another exit on penalty shootouts for England, and this was a shocker from Beckham. He had missed his previous 2 penalties for the Three Lions (including one earlier in the tournament), and these misses may have been in the back of his mind when he was the first to step up. It appears as if he slipped as he took the penalty, sending the ball miles over the bar and into the crowd. Portugal went on to win the shootout 6-5, and it was a familiar sight to see the England players inconsolable after a cruel loss.
3 John Terry v Manchester United (2008)
John Terry has admitted that he is still haunted by this penalty miss that cost Chelsea the Champions League trophy in 2008. It was a rainy night in Moscow when Terry stepped up to the spot with the score 4-4 in the shootout. The wet conditions caused Terry to slip as he connected with the ball, seeing his effort fly wide of the post. The rain did not disguise Terry’s tears, who claimed he had let down his fans, teammates, family and friends. Terry eventually got his hands on the trophy in 2012, and a suspension for the final meant that Terry would not have to step up to the spot again, as Chelsea edged Bayern Munich on penalties.
2 Asamoah Gyan v Uruguay (2010)
A real heartbreaking miss ended Ghana’s World Cup dreams in 2010, and the Ghanaian captain has admitted that he has never fully recovered from this moment. Right at the end of extra time, Gyan had a chance to send Ghana through to the semis with a penalty kick, after Luis Suarez handled the ball on the line and saw red. This would've made Ghana the first African team to advance to the last four. Gyan blasted the spot kick off the bar and was visibly distraught; this swayed the momentum going into the shootout. Gyan managed to convert his penalty kick in the shootout, but Uruguay would go through 4-2 in a dramatic and memorable match where Luis Suarez was once again the villain after purposefully handling the ball.