Guardian, Thursday, May 22, 2008 2:45 PM
There are two schools of thought when it comes to concluding a match by penalty shootout. The majority opinion says that it's an unsatisfactory way to decide a game, especially one as big as the
Champions League final. The other school says that taking penalties is an art requiring both soccer skill and mental stamina, and therefore the ideal way to find the better team.
Paul Doyle writes of Wednesday's Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea that "whoever won this match would be worthy champions." Frequently such finals fall short of
expectation, but in this game the teams "truly delivered." Although "an inspired goal would have been the perfect climax" to such an absorbing game, what, he asks, could be more exciting and
suspense-filled than a penalty shootout?
Hollow commentators dismiss penalties as a mere lottery, but Doyle maintains that "following the intense physical and technical demands of
the previous 120 minutes, an additional psychological layer is added. Critics carp that in a team game, shoot-outs concentrate too much pressure on an individual. But that is the perfect denouement
in such circumstances: when two ensembles appear equal, it's time to examine their constituent parts."
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