The Famous Fifth Penalty: Why Go Last?
Cast your mind back to the Champions League final last month and the penalty shootout between Bayern Munich and Chelsea. More specifically, Roberto Di Matteo’s team talk prior to the spotkicks which would decide the fate of club football’s most coveted prize.
The ‘what ifs’ are predominantly forgotten in the midsts of time but imagine if Chelsea’s hero that night in Bavaria, Didier Drogba, has missed?
He had chosen, or was allocated, the role of the fifth penalty taker whereby the pressure on scoring is unprecedented. More often than not, the fifth penalty is the most crucial; it can keep you in the match, lose you a match and, in the case of Chelsea’s now departed Ivorian, win you the match.
Drogba put that fifth penalty away, embracing the adulation he received for securing Chelsea’s first European Cup.
Now, fast forward to yesterday’s shootout between Spain and Portugal and the fate of one Cristiano Ronaldo, who would not get the opportunity to shoulder the burden of taking the fifth and decisive penalty.
Bruno Alves had crashed his penalty against the bar and Cesc Fabregas had guided Spain into the final before the Real Madrid winger had even began to contemplate where he would place his spotkick.
As captain, why did Ronaldo not step up first?
A confident penalty, past the outstretched arms of Iker Casillas would have sent a message to his team mates; we can beat them. For Ronaldo to opt, we presume, to take the final penalty can be viewed as a combination of two things.
One, he would have featured on all the back pages and even the front pages as the man who guided Portugal to their first final in eight years. As captain. As their best player.
However, there is a big difference between those two aforementioned titles; the team player, or the individual, which is the second point.
John Terry’s miss in the Champions League final of 2008 typifies the latter; wanting the adulation and responsibility and, in that brief team talk prior to the shootout, choosing number five.
One cannot presume that the opposition will miss a penalty, which is why Ronaldo and Terry opted for number five; wanting the responsibility. Both Terry and Ronaldo are viewed as glory seekers for choosing number five predominantly because their team was unsuccessful.
Drogba, on the other hand, is viewed as a hero, a gladiator. A winner.
Although Steven Gerrard took England’s first penalty in their defeat to Italy on Sunday, one may recall he did not take one in Liverpool’s Champions League final win in 2005.
He was number five on Rafa Benitez’s list and, had Andriy Shevchenko not put his penalty tamely into the arms of Jerzy Dudek, would have had the opportunity to win the European Cup for Liverpool. As captain, he wanted the adulation and to be entrusted with the responsibility.
It did not matter of course to Liverpool but for Ronaldo and Portugal’s Euro 2012 campaign, it did.