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Antonín Panenka

Club career

An attacking midfielder known for the quality of his passing and his free kicks, Panenka played for Bohemians Prague for most of his career, joining the club as a youth in 1959. In 1981 Panenka left Bohemians for Austrian club Rapid Vienna, where he won two Bundesliga titles and an Austrian Cup. In 1985 Rapid reached the Cup Winners' Cup final; Panenka played as a substitute, but his side lost 3–1 to Everton. Later that year Panenka moved to VSE St. Pölten, and played two more seasons before moving into the lower leagues in Austria.

Panenka Penalty

He came to international prominence playing for Czechoslovakia in the 1976 European Championship; Czechoslovakia reached the final, where they faced West Germany. After extra time, the result was 2–2, and so the first penalty shootout in a European Championships final ensued. The first seven kicks were converted, until West Germany's fourth penalty taker, Uli Hoeneß, ballooned his shot over the bar. With the score 4–3, Panenka stepped up to take the fifth Czechoslovakian penalty, to win the match under immense pressure. German goalkeeper Sepp Maier dived to his left, while Panenka chipped the ball straight in the middle of the net. The sheer cheek of the goal led a watching French journalist to dub Panenka "a poet", and to this day his winning kick is one of the most famous ever, making Panenka's name synonymous with that particular style of penalty kick.

Antonin Panenka himself says that he came up with the idea on the training ground of the Prague club Bohemians, where he plied his trade for many years:

"Nobody had ever taken a penalty like that before. I came up with the idea because I used to practice penalties after training at Bohemians with our goalkeeper Zdeněk Hruška. 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. 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."

Even to this day, many football commentators are amazed at how Panenka managed to hold his nerve to take a shot like that, especially as he would have looked extremely silly had the keeper not dived. The player himself says he never had any doubt that he would score.

"About two years before the European Championships I began trying it. At first I did it during friendly matches and then I did it once or twice during Czechoslovak league matches. It worked so well that I decided that I would use the technique if I got a penalty at the European Championships. Of course, it was pure chance that the opportunity came in the final after the Germans equalised in the last minute and then, when it went to penalties, the German player missed his kick before it was my turn. It was like the will of God. I was one thousand percent certain that I would take the penalty in that way and that I would score."

As well as winning the 1976 European Championship, Panenka helped Czechoslovakia come third in the 1980 tournament, after scoring once again in a 9–8 penalty shootout win. In the finals of the 1982 World Cup; Panenka scored twice with penalties, but these were the only Czechoslovakian goals, and the team did not progress beyond the first group stage.



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