What is the Panenka? Penalty kick technique, how to do it & players who used it

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Goal takes a look at the history of a move that has revolutionised the way that spot kicks are taken since coming to prominence in 1976

The Panenka is an ingenious but simple way of taking a penalty kick, which sees the taker chip the ball down the centre of the goal.

It was invented by Antonin Panenka and shot to fame in 1976, when the Czechoslovakian star used it to outfox legendary Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sepp Maier during the European Championship final.

The Czechs had squandered a 2-0 lead during 90 minutes of that encounter and were forced into extra-time and subsequently penalties.

After the first seven kicks were scored, Uli Hoeness missed for the Germans, giving Panenka the opportunity to win the tournament.

The following seconds, which saw Maier dive off to his left as the ball simply floated into the middle of the goal, would go down in footballing history as the birth of a new skill, a revolutionary manner from which to score from 12 years.

Pele described it as the work of “either a genius or a madman”, while the Czech has been forced to defend himself from accusations of showboating on one of the game’s biggest stages.

“I suspect that Maier doesn’t like the sound of my name too much. I never wished to make him look ridiculous,” Panenka told UEFA.com .

“On the contrary, I chose the penalty because I saw and realised it was the easiest and simplest recipe for scoring a goal. It is a simple recipe.”


Players Who Have Used The Panenka Technique


Andrea Pirlo Italy Euro 2012

Since the skill was first performed back in 1976, it has been used with increasing regularity by some of the game’s greatest players in some of the biggest moments.

Perhaps the most famous Panenka came in the World Cup final of 2006, when Zinedine Zidane gave France a 1-0 lead over Italy by lifting such a penalty into the goal of Gianluigi Buffon. Of course, the match ended in disappointment for Zizou as he was sent off and France lost via a shootout, but it remains a moment etched in the folklore of the game.

Andrea Pirlo is another to have successfully used the penalty, with the Italy great notably converting during a Euro 2012 shootout against England.

“I made my decision right at the last second, when I saw Joe Hart, the England goalie, doing all sorts on his line,” he explained.

“As I began my run up, I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do. And then he moved and my mind was made up. It was all impromptu, not premeditated. The only way I could see pushing my chances of scoring close to 100%.”

In the modern game, Barcelona ace Lionel Messi has pulled the skill off on numerous occasions, while Eden Hazard, Memphis Depay and Raheem Sterling have all used the technique but the man himself seems to prefer those taken by Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.  

“Ramos is undoubtedly one of the best in the world,” he told AS the day after the centre-back had clipped home an effort against Celta in La Liga.

“I remember that the first ones he took were not the prettiest ones, but all have gone in, and that is the important thing in the end.

“The kick was one of the most elegantly executed Panenka penalties I've ever seen him do. I really enjoyed it and I appreciated it. A great goal, without a doubt.”

Sebastian Abreu is possibly the most prolific taker of such kicks, but given that he is nicknamed ‘El Loco’, that is to be expected. It is a not a tag that he necessarily appreciates, though.

After netting in the 2014 World Cup for Uruguay against Ghana in a shootout using the method, he said: “What adjective did you use to describe Zidane’s penalty? Crazy? No, magic. So why not Abreu?”

He can even claim to have scored two Panenkas in one game, doing so twice as Botafoga came back to beat Fluminense 3-2 away from home in 2011.

Zinedine Zidane France 2006

Of course, the nature of the technique and the high-pressure situations in which it is often used makes it a risky option and not all have been as fortunate as Ramos to see their shots find the net.

“I was watching Memphis Depay score one yesterday and decided at the last moment. I am stupid!” Aleksandar Mitrovic lamented as putting too much elevation on his chip during an international between his Serbia side and Montenegro.

Gary Lineker also famously fluffed an effort in a 1992 friendly for England against Brazil, missing his opportunity to equal the goal scoring record for his nation as he scuffed his effort, which resulted in a straightforward save.

Perhaps the costliest failed attempt, though, came from Frenchman Yann Kermorgant while playing for Leicester in a 2010 play-off semi-final against Cardiff, which could have seen the Foxes promoted to the Premier League. He did not get enough height or power on his effort, which resulted in an easy save for Bluebirds keeper David Marshall.


How To Take A Panenka Penalty


As the whole technique is based upon the assumption that the goalkeeper will dive to one corner or another, disguise is crucial to making a successful conversion.

It is, therefore, important that there is no difference between your usual run up and the one you use when taking a Panenka. Only when the ball is struck should the difference become evident.

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Try striking the ball with the area of your boot roughly where the inside of your big toe is. It can also help to keep a straight leg when trying the technique and it is important to lean back slightly – but not too much – to get elevation on the shot.

Staying relaxed is important, which makes the execution of the kick on a bigger stage all the more impressive.

Remember, like everything, practise makes perfect and this tricky skill should come to you in time.

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