Euro Moments: Antonin Panenka the original and best
Czechoslovakia beat West Germany to win Euro 1976 thanks to trailblazing penalty
Antonin Panenka’s penalty gave Czechoslovakia victory over West Germany in Euro 1976. Photograph: Getty
Euro 1976: Czechoslovakia 2 West Germany 2 AET (Czechoslovakia win 5-3 on penalties)
Taking a penalty at any level of football takes a certain amount of bottle, but having the nerve to chip the ball down the middle of the goal in the knockout stages of a major international tournament is another kettle of fish altogether.
There have been a few high profile examples of players displaying the ultimate in spot-kick cool over the past couple of decades.
And then there was Zinedine Zidane dinking the ball past Gianluigi Buffon after seven minutes of the 2006 World Cup final - a moment on the grandest stage which epitomised one of football’s most brilliantly enigmatic characters almost as much as his sending off later in the same game.
But for once Zidane et al weren’t the trendsetters, they were merely following in the footsteps of Antonin Panenka, the man who gave the ‘Panenka’ penalty its name.
The 1976 European Championships was the fifth edition of the tournament, and West Germany were looking to retain the Henri Delauney trophy in Yugoslavia.
Franz Beckenbauer’s side looked on course to do so when they recovered from a 2-0 deficit against Czechoslovakia in the final in Belgrade, with Bernd Holzenbein’s 89th minute equaliser keeping them in the match.
Extra time couldn’t separate the two sides and so the Euros would be decided by a penalty shootout for the first time.
After Uli Hoeness, the currently imprisoned former president of Bayern Munich, skied the Germans’ fourth kick it was down to Panenka, an attacking midfielder for Bohemians Prague, to win the trophy for the Czechs.
With Sepp Maier, one of the world’s best ‘keepers, in front of him, Panenka took a long run and went steaming up towards the ball, his mullet and meat-chops flowing in the wind. Put your foot through it, son.
But at the crucial moment, and as Maier made that first fatal movement, Pananka dropped his shoulder and instead of leathering it clipped it delicately down the middle of the goal before wheeling away with both arms aloft.
Czechoslovakia had conquered West Germany, Panenka had secured his place in football folklore. The original, and probably the best.