The Champions League Final was a proper football match. Two teams trying to win, not trying to avoid defeat. It was nerveless English league football at its best. Ebb and flow, chances, petulant players, whining managers and some fabulous skill on display. But never mind that. Like so many big finals, this one had to be settled on penalties, reducing a team game to a one-on-one lottery. I find it unacceptable.
Yes, I know it’s dramatic and all that but it isn’t football. There are no team tactics, and the only skill is in hitting a ball from 12 yards and hoping your standing foot doesn’t slide. Because in the end, this final was settled by a patch of mud beneath the boot of John Terry during an artificial ending to an exhilarating match. Shouldn’t be this way, if you ask me. John Terry was disconsolate, clearly blaming himself for losing the match. Wrongly. He had a great game but he is now forced to carry the can for events beyond the final whistle.
So what should we do? Well, fundamentally, the game needs to go on until someone scores. But of course, there has to be a conclusion in a reasonable time. So, some artificiality is necessary but it must retain the team ethic and skill of player and manager. Tactics should be evident right until the end. Now this is not a new idea, but at the start of extra time, each team should be reduced to ten men (red cards not withstanding). Every ten minutes, a further player is withdrawn. The decisions on who is withdrawn will win the match for one side or another. They are not arbitrary and they do not leave one man carrying the can for a spot kick failure. Football is played until the game is decided by that single golden goal.
I think what’s key to this is that at the outset, every player knows that the game will be settled during play, not by a fairground sideshow. So there is no ‘playing for penalties’. This forces endeavour during extra time. Results will come quickly. Defending will win you nothing.
So, debate away… what are the strengths and flaws of this? Can it work?