Confederations Cup hosts epic penalty shoot out!

Torres Scores Spain Euro 2008

After an engaging 0:0 draw in normal time, Spain and Italy locked horns in a penalty shootout that will be remembered for a long time.

Years from now, Memories of what happened during normal time in the Confederations Cup 2013 Spain-Italy Semi-final will be buried in the depths of our subconscious.

You won't recall the Torres swivel and left footed shot that should've gone in the bottom right corner. You probably won't remember Pirlo's pinpoint freekick from the right, and De Rossi's resulting header wide from inside the six yard box. You won't even remember the other 9 shots on target either. What you will remember however is the penalty shootout that took place. The quality and technique combined with the temperament of players, this was the best display of penalty kick taking I've ever seen. It deserves to be the topic of conversation for today.

Here's what happened...

1. Candreva -  Francesco Totti did it in Euro 2000, Postiga against England in Euro 2004, Zidane in World Cup final in 2006 and Sebastian Abreu in the 2010 World Cup., and Pirlo at Euro 2012. The "Panenka" has to be the Godfather of all dares when taking that crucial penalty, upon which your nation's hopes lie. The sheer audacity and the nerve to attempt it alone demands respect, but ONLY if the taker succeeds. Antonio Candreva has joined a very exclusive club by dismissively putting his Panenka away in an Confederations Cup semi against one of the best goal keepers to play the game in Iker Casillas. What a way to start the penalty shootout it was.

2. Xavi - The crowd were still gasping in amazement from  Candreva's panenka as Xavi ran up to take his penalty. With a drop of the left shoulder he calmly sold Buffon and slotted the ball neatly into the bottom right corner with pinpoint accuracy. No sweat.

3. Aquilani - A nervous looking Alberto Aquilani showed little confidence in his stuttering run up as he approached penalty spot to strike the ball. However betraying his visible nerves and having gathered decent momentum, he got just enough power on it to evade Casillas' dive. The ball nestled into the bottom left hand corner.

4. Iniesta - Unlike Aquilani's fist pumping celebration after slotting his penalty away, Iniesta calmly jogged back to the centre circle after scoring his, head bowed. His confidence in his own ability must surely rival any sportsman/woman on the planet. After placing the ball calmly his little shuttle run ended with him slotting it into the bottom right corner beyond the despairing dive of Gigi Buffon. It was another sublime penalty and the players from both sides were showing nerves of steel.

5. De Rossi - No stranger to this situation, De Rossi successfully took a penalty in the World Cup final in 2006. Casillas obviously didn't remember. The midfielder smashed the ball in the top left hand corner just like he'd done that night in Berlin. That put some serious pressure on Gerard Pique, who had girlfriend and pop sensation Shakira cheering him on in the stands.

6. Pique - The poker face was utterly justified as the Barcelona centre back calmly sent buffon the wrong way, placing the ball neatly into the bottom right corner. Shakira's relief was evident as she leapt out her seat in celebration.

7. Giovinco - He may have been the smallest man on the pitch but showed big heart as he dummied twice in his run up before leaving Casillas rooted to the spot and smashing it into the bottom right corner. Twitter was now awash with instructions for England players to watch and learn. For Italy and Spain fans this was no time for such tomfoolery. This was now getting intense.

8. Ramos - Like Aquilani, Ramos' approach to the penalty spot was anything but confident. He had to score to keep Spain level. A little shimmy on the spot he attacked the ball and put his laces right through it. The ball arrowed towards the left hand side of the net, but so did Buffon, but the ball speared into the roof of the net. It was a valiant effort by Gigi but the power and height of the strike meant that he was helpless once again. With eight penalties gone, neither keeper had got remotely close to saving a penalty. Already this was an exceptional display of penalty taking. "We might be here all night at this rate" tweeted one excited twitter user.

9. Pirlo - As the Italian veteran casually walked towards the penalty spot, pressure was already on Mata who was up next. The broadcaster kindly focused their HD cameras on Pirlo's eyes as he took the penalty. Perhaps it was to catch a glimpse of genius at work, they succeeded. Like a mathematical equation his eyes took six simultaneous snapshots of the keeper and the ball on the penalty spot before he struck the penalty. He'd successfully monitored Casillas movements up until the very last possible moment, determining the direction of his dive and sending the ball the other way. It was poetry in motion.

10. Mata - As the last of the allocated penalty takers, Mata was now taking the penalty to prevent Spain from going out of the competition. His run up was from a sharp angle running in from the right. As he neared the ball he stretched his left leg with a high back lift shaping to hooks the ball into the bottom right, before straightening his leg at teh last second sending the ball rifling into the bottom left corner. Buffon had been sold a dummy once again, and the number of exceptional penalties reached ten. It was no sudden death! The crowd noise suggested Italian supporters had the upper hand as chants of Italia, Italia rang around the stadium.

11. Montolivo - The Milan midfielder was the first brave soul to put his hand up and volunteer to take the first sudden death penalty and yet again it was a fantastic one. With a casual run up, he opened his body, shaping to side foot it to the bottom right ,only to close it at the last second sending the ball crashing to the bottom left. It was Casillas' turn to buy the dummy as he picked himself up from the wrong side of the net.

12. Busquets - The noise levels by this point were deafening, as Italian fans tried their utmost to distract  the Brcelona midfielder from the task at hand. His long gangly legs however did co-operate with him as he fired a low shot into the bottom right. Buffon had pre-meditated the direction of the penalty on this occasion but had chosen the wrong side. The pressure was now back on Italy. Surely this penalty taking nerve had to give way at some stage. Would Buffon and Casillas have to take one? Even sudden death appeared to be heading nowhere with neither side letting up. 

13. Bonucci - If ever nerves could be personified, in walked Leonardo Bonucci out from the Italian huddle. The Juventus centre half had a few worrying lines across his forehead, which didn't fill the Italian crowd with much confidence. Silence fell upon the ground as Bonucci paused and stared at the ball, like a bowler who'd forgotten his run up he stuttered in towards the ball getting slightly underneath it as he struck. Over the bar! Casillas watched in glee as the ball flew harmlesssly over his head. The camera immediately panned to Cesare Prandelli, who could do nothing but stare into the distance. Perhaps searching for an alternative Universe, with an alternative reality, anything to escape this one. The Italian walked back, embarrassingly chewing on his jersey in shock.

14. Navas - Manchester City fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of watching Jesus Navas in a city shirt this season. His blistering pace was a sight to behold, and he'll no doubt be terrorizing premiership defences come August. But as he stepped up to take the penalty, did he have the nerves to handle the extremist of pressures. Like a cheetah attacking its prey he sprinted towards the ball before striking a blow with his right foot, sending the ball crashing into the bottom left corner beyond the stretching Buffon. It was all over!

As the Spanish players sprinted towards Navas the Spanish contingent in the crowd began the celebrations. Bonucci was comforted by his team mates. The Italian fans were stunned into silence and were in a state of shock. As for the neutrals, well, they'd just witnessed 13 of the best penalty kicks they're ever likely to see.

Was this the best penalty shootout you've ever seen? Here's my top 10. Agree? Disagree? Which one would you add to the list? Have your say on twitter @hitcsport .

1. Italy vs Spain 2013

2. Ajax vs Juventus Champions League final 1996

3. Germany vs. England Euro 96

4. Brazil vs. Italy, World Cup 1994

5. Italy vs. France, World Cup 2006

6. Argentina vs England, World Cup 1998

7. Liverpool vs AC Milan Champions league final 2005

8. England vs Portugal Euro 96

9. Manchester United vs Chelsea Champion league final 2008

10. Portugal vs Spain Euro 2012 semi final.

 

Rana Malook is a sports writer for HITC you can tweet him @rararana

images: © Steenbergs, © nbabaian

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