May 22, 2008

Champions play Russian Roulette

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Penalty kicks in soccer are basically the equivalent to Russian Roulette. There’s pretty much a 50/50 chance at the possible outcomes: Glory/relief or disappointment/death. It’s an even better analogy for the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea due to the locale where their spectacular game went down — Moscow, the capital of Russia.

And what a spectacular game it was. One of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

How does Nicolas Anelka feel about that miss? He was the only Chelsea player to shoot towards Edwin van der Sar’s right. He was the also the only player to be stopped by Man U’s keeper and lose the game for his team. And no blame should be put on Chelsea captain John Terry for his miss. He understandably slipped on the sopping wet turf while shooting. He shouldn’t receive grief for not winning it. Cristiano Ronaldo should be getting a lot of grief though for his silly miss on that stutter-step that put Man U in jeopardy.

Now, as I understand, many people will argue that, like the NHL’s shootout, soccer’s penalty shootout isn’t a proper way to end a game — especially one of this importance. I couldn’t disagree more. The penalty shootout is a great way, that’s full of drama, to end a game like this.

Man U-Chelsea was a great example of why I’m right. The game ended at roughly 1:30 a.m. local time. While the teams are both England-based and it wouldn’t be that late on their body clocks, it is still very late at night and keeping up a championship-level of play would get harder by the minute.

Also, remember that teams only get three substitutions throughout the game, regardless of overtime. This isn’t like basketball or football where there can be unlimited subs coming in and out at regular intervals. These guys are running for at least 90 minutes and then an additional 30 if the game is tied while only getting a 15 minute break between halves. After yesterday’s game, in the game’s summary one stat showed that each team had run roughly a total of 144 km. When dividing that by the 10 non-goalies, you get 14.4 km per person at 7.2 km per hour. With unlimited overtime in soccer, how much more could these guys have left in their tanks? Carrying on would be hazardous to the players.

There is no real compelling arguement to make the games go on in extra time. If you can think of one, I’m all ears. Just remember that nobody can run forever.

So now, bring on Euro 2008 and go Germany!

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