On 17 July of this year, the Brazilian national team made headlines around the world. Their defeat to Paraguay in the Copa America quarter-final was a surprise, but it was the nature of the loss that really drew the attention of the media and fans. After the match finished goalless after extra time, A Seleção, known for their traditional excellence at dead-ball situations, missed all four of their attempts in the shoot-out, to lose 2-0 on penalties.

The five-time world champions are not alone in having suffered this embarrassment. Some of the most high-profile encounters in the history of the game have thrown up similar outcomes. From Helmuth Dukadam’s incredible night in Seville to the unfortunate performance by Cameroon at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup, FIFA.com looks back at some remarkable instances of teams drawing a blank during shoot-outs.

Hero of Seville
“Penalties have their own little secret. As far as goalkeepers are concerned, it’s important to stay calm and be aware that, in everybody’s mind, the greatest pressure is on the penalty-taker. The key is to make sure that he knows this too,” revealed former Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea, one of the game’s greatest penalty-saving experts, as he proved while helping La Albiceleste to claim the runners-up spot at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™

Four years prior to shining on the world stage, the Argentinian was a substitute for the River Plate team that won the 1986 Toyota (Intercontinental) Cup versus Steaua Bucharest. The Romanian side had qualified for the event thanks largely to the efforts of custodian Dukadam, who famously kept out four of Barcelona’s penalties at the European Cup Final in Seville earlier that year. By saving three down low to his right and one – the final and conclusive spot-kick – to his left, he stopped the Catalans from scoring any of their attempts, in one of the most memorable penalty shoot-outs the game has ever witnessed.

“Steaua are a good team with an outstanding keeper,” said then Barcelona coach Terry Venables after his charges’ incredible defeat, admitting that he would likely never forget the moustachioed Romanian, who prevented the Spanish giants from lifting the coveted trophy.

As for the ‘Hero of Seville’, who was unable to play in the December clash with the South American champions, fate dealt him an unfortunate blood disorder which kept him on the sidelines for three years. He then worked for the border police in Romania, and was forced to sell his European Cup medal and the gloves he wore that night in order to pay off debts. In 2010, after venturing into politics, he was named Steaua’s club president.

Another side out of luck from the spot were Boca Juniors, when they took on Colombian outfit Once Caldas during the 2004 Copa Libertadores final. At the end of the second leg in Manizales, Carlos Bianchi’s hitherto all-conquering Argentinian side were found wanting from the spot, as neither Rolando Schiavi, Nicolas Burdisso, Raul Cascini nor Franco Cangele could find a way past Carlos Henao in the Once Caldas goal.

Counterparts Elkin Soto and Jorge Agudelo showed considerably more composure, and their goals produced a final and unusual shoot-out scoreline of 2-0. The result not only provided the Colombians with their first-ever continental title, but it marked the end of an era for their Argentinian rivals, who had previously enjoyed better luck with penalties at the culmination of the 2000 and 2001 Copa Libertadores finals, and of the 2003 Intercontinental Cup.

Scoreless Swiss
Of the many records registered in this regrettable category across the world’s various tournaments, one that stands out was set in the 1979 CAF African Champions League second-round tie between Hafia FC of Guinea and Silures of Burkina Faso. Match reports indicate a 1-0 win on penalties in favour of Silures, although to this day neither club can remember exactly how many attempts were missed before the eventual outcome was decided.

Sticking with Africa, how could fans ever forget Nigeria’s victory over Spain in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007? Spanish supporters are likely to remember just one name from that memorable game: Oladele Ajiboye. The young Nigerian No1 was the star of the shoot-out in Seoul, saving two of Spain’s three missed penalties.

I just waited to see where the ball was going and then threw myself at it.

Oladele Ajiboye, Nigerian goalkeeper

“I’ve never been a penalty specialist; this is the first time I’ve had any success at it! I didn’t even study up on the takers. I just waited to see where the ball was going and then threw myself at it,” admitted the hero of the hour to FIFA.com after denying Iago and Fran Merida, and frustrating Spain coach Juan Santisteban in the process.

As far as major tournaments go, there are admittedly none bigger than the FIFA World Cup. Ever since West Germany saw off France 5-4 on penalties in the semi-final of Spain 1982, the planet’s greatest football tournament has seen no fewer than 22 matches decided by this suspenseful method.

Only one of those involved a clean sheet for one of the participants, and it came in the Round of 16 at Germany 2006, when, following a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes, Ukraine recorded a 3-0 win over Switzerland, whose players failed to get the better of opposition keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskyi. Fans of the Helvetian side still boast of exiting the competition without conceding a goal in normal time.

Lesson learned
2011 has already produced two notable examples of this phenomenon: Mexico’s last-16 triumph over Cameroon at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, which finished 3-0 on penalties to El Tri, and the aforementioned Brazilian Copa America defeat.

A Canarinho have missed some famous penalties over the years, such as Socrates’ against France at Mexico 1986, but four unsuccessful attempts in the same shoot-out had never been seen before, to the extent that former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed dismay, declaring “Even I would have scored at least one of them.”

The tongue-in-cheek comment may not have raised a smile on the faces of Elano, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos and Fred, the guilty parties versus Paraguay in Argentina, but it will certainly have inspired future Brazilian penalty-takers to take a little more care from the spot.

One such player, Danilo, practically admitted as much to FIFA.com during the FIFA U-20 World Cup, stating, “It wasn’t really because of what happened in Argentina, but I decided to practise penalties with my team-mates just to make sure that the same kind of thing doesn’t happen to us.”

And this approach appeared to work, as a few days later Ney Franco’s team overcame Spain via a shoot-out without missing a single penalty, thereby taking another important step to eventually claiming the U-20 title for a fifth time.

Have your say
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