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10 unforgettable penalty misses by legendary players that could have changed history

Utathya Nag
Top 5 / Top 10
137.05K   //    Timeless

‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’— there may be no truer saying associated with the game of football. It is perhaps called the beautiful game because of its ability to produce heroes in the moment — and in some of these iconic moments, a few mortals through their abilities and dedication manage to establish themselves as ‘Gods’.However, football’s ability to bestow omnipotence can only be outdone by its crooked sense of humour, which periodically reminds us football fans that the ‘Gods’ we worship are indeed just mere ‘men’.And the football deity’s preferred tool to balance the books are ‘penalties’. Something so simple, an act so basic – that it must be a stone chip in the way of ‘titans’ we witness on the field. They move mountains week-in, week-out, surely a penalty must be a walk in the park. Not always though.The stress of the short run-up ahead of dispatching the football 12-yards past a solitary goalkeeper has brought many a ‘goliath’ to their knees. Here’s a look back into some of the unforgettable moments from the rich veins of football history, where the dreaded penalties managed to humble some of the greatest players ever to grace football:

#10 Cristiano Ronaldo vs Bayern Munich (Champions League semi-finals, 2012

Real Madrid played Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2012 Champions League. The two-legged affair concluded with a penalty shootout at the Santiago Bernabeu after the two sides were tied 3-3 on aggregate after regulation time.

Ronaldo stepped up to take the first penalty for the Los Blancos. The Portuguese international, who had earlier dispatched a clinical penalty during the game, failed to beat Manuel Neuer at the second time of asking, as his tame effort went directly to the German keeper.

Madrid lost the match 3-1 on penalties and the grand dream of the ‘La Decima’ had to be postponed for two more years.

#9 Lionel Messi vs Chelsea (Champions League semi finals, 2012)

In the 2011/12 Champions League semi-finals, Robert Di Matteo took his Chelsea side to the Nou Camp after salvaging a narrow 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the first leg. Barcelona werefirm favourites at home and were expected to make it to the finals at Munich.

After John Terry was sent off, Barcelona took a 2-0 lead via goals from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. A first-half stoppage time goal from Ramires meant the Blues went into the break with a slight glimmer of hope.

The hope, however, could have been smothered soon after the break when Barcelona were awarded a penalty for Didier Drogbas foul on Cesc Fabregas.


Up stepped Lionel Messi, the modern day equivalent of a footballing God. However, the kick, which was supposed to kickstart the Catalan clubs domination of the match after the late first-half setback, crashed back off the crossbar.

The home team seemed shell-shocked by the miss and their razor sharp attack seemed to lose its edge, despite playing against 10 men. A late goal by Fernando Torres meant that Barcelona crashed out of the tournament 3-2 on aggregate.

Messi scored a record breaking 73 goals that seasonbut missed the one that could have sealed their progress to the final.

#8 Eric Cantona vs Beauveais (French Cup, 1989)

In 1988-89, Eric Cantona was every bit the character we know and love. He faced huge criticism for calling the French national team a bag of shit, but that didnt stop his hometown club Marseille from shelling out a French record fee for him.

Cantonas stay at Marseille was short-lived after the Frenchman fell out with the manager after ripping off his jersey during a friendly. He was shipped off to Bordeaux on a six-month loan in 1989.

By the end of the season, Bordeaux had to win the French Cup to have any chance of qualifying for Europe next season. A crucial Cup match against second division Beauveais ended 0-0 and the match went to penalties.

Cantona stepped up for his teams second penalty and promptly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. However, the Frenchmans shot was so slow that the keeper had enough time to recover and save the shot.

The comical miss earned him immense ridicule in the French press.Cantona had a historic stint in England, but the unforgettable penalty miss is bound to haunt the great man forever.

#7 David Beckham vs Portugal (Quarter-finals, Euro 2004)

David Beckham has had a few penalty misses in his career, but surely none haunts the English legend more than the one againstPortugal in the knockout stages of Euro 2004. Deadlocked at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the two teams scored once each during extra time to finish the game 2-2.

As the dreaded penalty shootout approached, England fans must have had their hearts in their mouths. The ever-reliable Beckham stepped upand England's hopes rested on their icon once more.Fears translated into dire reality as Beckham ballooned the ball over the crossbar.

It got England's penalty shootout off to a dreadful startand eventually resulted in the Three Lions getting knocked out, losing 6-5.

#6 Dennis Bergkamp vs Manchester United (FA Cup semi-finals, 1998)

Arsenals iconic Dutchman was named by Pele as one of FIFAs 100 greatest living footballers of the world. The blonde-haired wizard, however, would like to forget one fine April morning of 1999.

The FA Cup semi-final replay against Manchester United already seemed to have seen enough drama for the day. A cracking opener from David Beckham was cancelled out in emphatic fashion by Dennis Bergkamp himself.

After an Arsenal goal was cancelled out controversially for offside and Roy Keane got sent off, a Phil Neville foul on Ray Parlour inside the box earned the Gunners a penalty late inregulation time.Up stepped the ice-cold Dutchman and hit a tame shot straight at Uniteds goalkeeper PeterSchmeichel.

Things got worse for the Dutchman as Ryan Giggs went on his famous run and went through five Arsenal defenders before scoring in the second half of extra time. Arsenal lost that night and also lost out on the Premier League on the final day to the same opponents. Bergkamp never took another penalty during the rest of his playing career.

Here are the highlights of the epic match including the iconic penalty miss.

#5 John Terry vs Manchester United (Champions League final, 2008)

Manchester Uniteds magical night at Moscow could have never come to be, if not for a penalty miss by Chelseas John Terry.

The finalof the 2008 UEFA Champions League saw two English sides face off for the trophy. Cristiano Ronaldos 26th-minute opener was cancelled out by Frank Lampards goal in the dying minutes of the first half.

A goalless second half and extra time took the match into the dreaded penalty shootout. The Red Devils fell behind with none other than Cristiano Ronaldo missing his kick.

Captain John Terry strode through the chilly Luzhniki Stadium to take the Blues final spot-kick with the scoreboard reading 3-4 in Chelseas favour. Terry had the opportunity to win Chelsea the greatest glory in European club football.

The ever-dependable defender managed to send Edwin van der Sar the wrong way despite losing his footing but in perhaps what was the most agonizing and long second of the Chelsea legends playing career, he saw the ball hit the outside of the post and go out.

In the end, Manchester United won 6-5 on penalties after Nicolas Anelkas penalty was saved by Van der Sar.

#4 Zico vs France (World Cup quarter-finals, 1986)

To any football puritan, few players in the last century measureup to Zico. Despite being widely regarded as one of the best players in the world at the time, Zicos name has become synonymous with the most tragic hero of World Cups.

After two heartbreaks in 1978 and 1982, Zico played his last World Cup in 1986. An ageing Zico went into the tournament carrying an injury and was largely used as an impact substitute when his team werein dire need of inspiration.

June 21, 1986, Guadalajara, Mexico. Brazil took on Michel Platinis France in the quarter-finals. Brazils Careca had scored the opener and just before half-time Platini had equalised.

Zico was brought in in the 71st minute to change the deadlock and the iconic Brazilian got his chanceafter two minutes on the field.

Branco was fouled by Frances keeper Bats in the penalty box prompting the referee to award a penalty kick in favour of Brazil. The seasoned veteran stepped up, but the kick was saved by the keeper.

Brazil went on to lose the match 4-3 in the shootout. Even though two more legendary players, Platini and Socrates, missed their spot-kicks on the day, Zico was never forgiven for missing the golden chance to wrap up the time inside normal time.

#3 Ruud van Nistelrooy vs Arsenal (Premier League, 2004)

Imagine being a Manchester United fan or, even worse, a Red Devils player in 2003/04 and enduring the agony of Arsenals Invincibles tag. Early in the 2003-04 season, Arsenal visited Old Trafford for one of the many high-voltage clashes between the two teams played out during that period.

With the score 0-0 late in the game, Ruud van Nistelrooy had the opportunity to nip the legacy of the Invincibles in the bud. The Dutchman won a penalty and stepped up. He beat Arsenals Jens Lehmann convincinglybut couldnt beat the crossbar and Arsenals 49-game unbeaten legacy was born.

Van Nistelrooy had to wait for one year before finding redemption as he scored the penalty to beat Arsenal 2-0, which ended the Gunners amazing streak.

#2 Arjen Robben vs Chelsea (Champions League final, 2012)

Arjen Robben took field against one of his former clubs, Chelsea, to play in the finals of the 2011-12 Champions League final. Bayern Munich, playing on their home turf in Munich, dominated the English team throughout the match but failed to put the game to bed.

A wasteful Bayern finally managed to go into the lead with an 83rd minute Thomas Muller goal, only to see it cancelled out by Didier Drogbas header in the 88th minute. The match went into extra-time and the opportunity arrived for Robben to write his namein the history books. Didier Drogba fouled Franck Ribery inside the box and the home team were awarded a penalty.

However, the recipe for a dream turned into a nightmare for the Dutch winger as his low and weak shot was easily saved by Chelsea keeper Petr Cech. Bayern lost 4-3 in the shootout, where a distraught Robben was left out of the final kick-takers list.

#1 Roberto Baggio vs Brazil (World Cup final, 1994)

The stage couldnt have been set more perfectly for Italys Roberto Baggios transcendence into immortality as the Divine Ponytail strode from the centre circle to take the penalty in the shootout of the 1994 World Cup finals at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, California.

Baggio had by far been the stand-out player of the tournament, single-handedly dragging the Azzurri into the finals. Besides being the top scorer for Italy with five goals, the man had done it all, as he had ledthe team by example throughout the tournament.

As the 27-year-old placed the ball on the spot, English television commentator Barry Davies summed things up, All the pressure now on Roberto Baggio, who has to score. The man who really has brought a team to the final, now has to save them.

However, it was not to be as Baggio skied his spot-kick over Brazilian keeper Taffarel, which meant Brazil won the shootout 3-2 to become the World Champions.The forlorn figure of the Italian standing in front of the goal is still considered one of the most heart-breaking images in modern football.

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