By David Fleenor
The age old question on how to determine a ‘winner’ after a match ends in a draw during the elimination rounds comes up at every major tournament. Over the years various methods have been turned to from a coin toss, to replays, to the penalty kick format. Each method has their pros and cons on why it is the best solution but FIFA needs to look to a new solution…make the teams keep playing.
OK, this probably sounds a bit harsh in an age where the players are ‘over played’ and when extra time is regularly a bore as each team accepts the inevitability of penalty kicks but more soccer really is a win-win for getting a result and would only require minor changes to a few rules.
The concept of ‘make the teams keep playing’ is probably not the best description of the process. It should more accurately be called an immediate replay.
The replay is commonly used to settle draws in many domestic cups around the globe so is not a foreign concept. In these cup matches when a game ends tied the two teams replay the match a week later and at the home ground of the visiting team from the first match.
The only differences from a domestic cup replay and ones at major tournaments is that the 90 minute replay would be played immediately with no golden goal or silver goal BUT each manager would have to send out a team comprised of substitutes from the original match or those players who did not play.
FIFA would only need to make minor changes to the rules to put this plan in action. The primary change required is to increase the roster size to 29 or 30 players at major tournaments so a team had the available players for two matches.
So how does this work you ask?
Well after the final whistle is blown and the game is still tied, the manager has a short 15 minute break to name his second team. He can only select from the players on the bench or the substitutes in the first game. While the teams are finalizing their rosters, the center official and fourth official switch responsibilities.
The second match kicks off and it is a win-win-win-win situation! The players will determine the winner in match action and club managers don’t have to be worried (or whining) about their star players being over used, and the fans get to see more great soccer action. But the biggest winner is the first game as the first 11 are more focused on providing that final piece of magic to win.
How does this play out?
In Wednesday match between Portugal and Spain, Portugal most likely is focused on winning in the first 90 minutes. The reason; Spain is one of the deepest teams in the tournament. Vicente del Bosque has at his disposal in the second game a lineup arguable as strong as his first with a decision in goal between Barcelona’s Victor Valdes or Liverpool’s Pepe Reina along with soccer superstars in the field like Champions League winner Juan Mata, Cesc Fabregas getting a full 90, Fernando Torres, and others.
In the England vs Italy quarterfinal draw last weekend, soccer fans get some added soccer and chance to see Jermain Defoe, youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain along with Italy’s Antonio Di Natalie.
And this is just the start of the excitement from this method.
The 1994 World Cup final would have included a replay with Brazil’s Ronaldo taking the pitch. Who knows how many goals he might have added to his World Cup record tally? Or maybe he would not have added to his tally as the Italy lineup would have included Alessandro Costacurta on the backline.
At the 2006 World Cup, fans have a replay between Germany and Argentina with a young Lionel Messi taking part in the replay. And just think of the other replays that summer in Germany, with Italy vs France in the final and England vs Portugal in the quarterfinal ending deadlocked.
And the Euro gets added excitement as well like a replay in 2008 between Spain and Italy, at Euro 2004 a replay between Sweden and the Netherlands with the Dutch bringing the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder or in the 1996 Euro when both semifinals went to penalty kicks.
The list of great matches and future stars is almost endless.
FIFA and the TV executives should not complain too much either as they would both be raking in more $’s to keep them happy.
What happens if the second game ends in a tie? Well at this point you might as well go to a coin toss.
Have Your Say…Do you like penalty kicks determining who advances at major tournaments? What method would you suggest for a change?
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