Ramos and Pirlo serve poetic justice at Euro

28 June 2012 07:49

Antonin Panenka was dubbed a poet by a watching journalist when he cheekily chipped his penalty down the middle to secure the then Czechoslovakia the 1976 European title at the expense of West Germany.

Whether Andrea Pirlo or Sergio Ramos were hoping also to be dubbed 'poets' in their respective penalty shootouts here at Euro 2012 is questionable but both Italy and Spain were indebted to them for slotting home their 'Panenka' style penalties.

Both were seen as being turning points if such things exist in penalty shootouts more for their psychological message in boosting their sides to the detriment of their opponents England and Portugal.

In both games the opposing side had looked to have the upper hand when Italy's Montolivo and Spain's Xabi Alonso missed early on but whether it was just coincidence or indeed a psychological blow neither England nor Portugal succeed with a penalty after that.

Ashley Young and Ashley Cole both failed for England while Portugal central defender Bruno Alves blasted his against the bar - leaving Cesc Frabregas to step up and put away his winning penalty.

"If I had to choose a lasting image from the game I'd say Pirlo's penalty," said Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi after Italy beat England 4-2 on penalties.

"I'd not seen such a crazy shot as that since the days of Totti," added De Rossi, referring to Roma team-mate Francesco Totti.

Ramos, who had no hesitation in taking one despite blasting over the bar in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich last season, confessed that he had planned his.

"I'd planned it in advance, I won't lie," he told reporters after receiving the man-of-the-match award.

"After my last experience with penalties with Real Madrid in the Champions League, people said I wasn't ready for the responsiblity of taking a penalty.

"But I had confidence in myself and I wanted to try again."

He added: "It was a risk, of course, but I had seen how the goalkeeper moved and I was pretty sure he would go one way or the other. It was lucky, but it was great for me."

In fact Ramos isn't alone in having planned it ahead of the shootout because the 'poet' Panenka, now a portly 63, had also pre-planned for such an occasion and as he admitted it had been years in the making and costly to both his wallet and then to his waistline.

"I came up with the idea because I used to practice penalties after training at Bohemians with our goalkeeper Zdenek Hruska," he told Radio Prague in 2007.

"To make it interesting, we used to wager a beer or a bar of chocolate on each penalty. Unfortunately, because he was such a good keeper, I ended up losing money as he kept saving more shots than I could score."

However, the determined Panenka spent many hours devising how he would come to master the art of taking the penalty and therein lay his success but also the seeds of an expanding waistline.

"As a result I ended up lying awake at night thinking about how I could get the upper hand.

"I eventually realised that the goalkeeper always waits until just before the last moment to try and anticipate where the ball is going and dives just before it's kicked so he can reach the shot in time.

"I decided that it was probably easier to score by feinting to shoot and then just gently tapping the ball into the middle of the goal.

"In this way the keeper had always dived by the time the ball was kicked and had no chance of recovering in time to save the shot.

"I tried it out on the training ground and it worked like a charm. The only problem was that I started getting a lot fatter because I won back all those beers and chocolates."

Source: AFP