Belgians invent the two-man penalty
The penalty is a one-on-one battle between its taker and a goalkeeper… well, almost always! For on rare occasions, the man between the sticks finds himself being double-teamed!
One example unfolded in December 1982. Ajax were leading Helmond Sport 1-0 when Johan Cruyff won a spot-kick. The magnificent attacker stepped up to take it himself, but rather than shoot, he passed it sideways into the path of team-mate Jesper Olsen. The latter drew Helmond No1 Otto Versfeld towards him, before squaring the ball back to Cruyff, who tapped the ball into the empty net.
“I was totally flabbergasted,” Versfeld recalled. “I was trying to work out what had just happened!” Cruyff added: “It was just before Christmas, so we wanted to give our supporters a gift to remember!”
Headlines spread across the world that the two-man penalty had been born that day in Amsterdam. But the truth is that it actually came to life a quarter-century earlier – exactly 55 years ago to this day – across the border in Brussels.
The occasion was a 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™ qualifier between Belgium and Iceland. Towards the end of the first half, with Les Diables Rouges already leading 6-1, Rik Coppens had the chance to amplify the advantage from 12 yards. Yet instead of going for goal directly, the 27-year-old striker played a one-two with Andre Piters, which drew keeper Bjorgvin Hermannson off his line and presented Coppers with the simplest of tap-ins.
“He was a real extrovert on the pitch,” said former team-mate Theo van Rooy of Coppens. “He loved doing things to make people say ‘wow’, and the whole stadium was saying ‘wow’ that day. It’s a good job he pulled it off mind – can you imagine what they’d have said if he missed doing something like that?”
Two men who discovered what people would say when two-man penalty attempt went wrong are Robert Pires and Thierry Henry. In the Premier League game against Manchester City in 2005, Pires grossly underhit his attempt to roll a penalty into the path of Arsenal team-mate Henry and the chance went begging. Those two Frenchman will have certainly been ungrateful to Coppens and Piters for giving them the idea!