Penalty shoot outs are not part of the match itself

As the World Cup looms, I thought it worth an initial small point on a technicality – but a statistically important one.

In some places, such as the British Isles, matches which go to penalties are marked as drawn, with the shoot-out score usually placed in brackets: the 2006 Final was thus Italy 1-1 France (Italy won 5-3 on penalties).

In others, such as German-speaking Europe, the penalties taken in the shoot out are included in the match score, thus Italien-Frankreich 6:4 n.E.

To be clear, the Germans have this wrong (and you’d think they would know better!)

According to the laws of the game, penalty shoot outs do not form part of the actual match. They are used simply to determine which team progresses (or wins the competition, in the case of the Final).

This means that, again according to the laws of the game, a match which is drawn at the end of game play (i.e. after 120 minutes in the case of the World Cup and most other big competitions) is deemed drawn. This affects overall win/loss records, as well as unbeaten and winning streaks.

It does lead to one somewhat bizarre quirk. Germany’s (previously West Germany’s) World Cup record is vastly better than England’s. Germany knocked England out in 1970, 1982, 1990 and 2010 (versus just one reverse in 1966); Germany has reached an incredible twelve semis, versus just two for England; and Germany has never failed to reach at least the last eight since it was re-admitted post-War, a period during which England has failed to qualify at all twice and frequently exited beforehand otherwise (not least at the most recent tournament).

Here’s a funny thing though… Although Germany has won three World Cups, it has only actually gone through the competition unbeaten once (1990)although England has only won one World Cup, it has in fact gone through the competition unbeaten three times (1966, 1982, 2006) – in fact four (plus 1990) if you exclude third-placed playoffs (as I personally do – I don’t see any point in them).

In fact, Germany has lost more World Cup Finals games than any other team except Argentina and Mexico; England hasn’t really lost very many at all. The English are truly awful at penalties though…

Another quick note on this subject: it is almost inevitable, when a game goes to penalties, that a commentator will refer to the “toss for ends”, as if there is a toss-up between the team captains to determine the end at which the shoot out takes place.

There isn’t! The toss of the coin determines only which team kicks first. The referee has sole discretion over the end at which the penalties are taken – supposedly because he is supposed to pick the end at which the penalty spot itself is in best repair (although there was a bit of an epic fail on that one in a Euro 2004 quarter-final, during whose shoot out David Beckham memorably spooned his effort about four times the height of the goal from an incredibly dodgy penalty mark!)

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