Imagine this scenario. Your country has reached its first final in a major tournament after one and half decades. You are facing a team which is the defending world as well as European champion. The match has gone into penalty shoot-out and the score is poised at 4-3 for your team. You know your penalty will win your country their first European Championship. In front of you stands a goalkeeper who has won a World Cup, a European Championship and has done a hat-trick of European Cups with his club in last five years. What do you do? Simple. You cheekily chip the ball into center of the goal. You do something that no one else has done before.
Antonin Panenka, take a bow.
European championship of 1976 could have been a football version of the infamous Iron Man challenge. Every single match played in Yugoslavia that summer went into extra-time.
Defending champions West Germany had shown the qualities that made them unstoppable in that period. Against the hosts in semi-final they had trailed 2-0 till 64th minute. As usual, taking their reputation of fighting back very seriously, the Germans clawed their way back to make it 2-2 in regulation time. A sensational hat-trick from Dieter Muller ensured West Germany stunned the home supporters to win 4-2 in extra time.
Czechoslovakia, on the other hand were 13 minutes away from a berth in Euro final as they led 1-0 thanks to an Anton Ondrus goal. An own goal on 77th minute, curiously from the same player ensured that the match went into extra-time. Netherlands were taken apart in second half of extra-time as the Czechs reached their first final since 1962 World Cup.
Goals from Ján Švehlík and Karol Dobiaš within first 25 minutes saw the Czechs go off to a blinder of a start in the final. Muller’s fourth goal of that Euro on 28th minute gave rise to a nail-biting final. With just one minute left on the clock it looked like Czechs would finally reach home. But it was not meant to be, insert the Germans don’t lose before losing rhetoric here. Bernd Hölzenbein’s goal on 89th minute took the final to extra-time.
There were no goals in extra-time as Euro saw its first ever penalty shoot-out. Each of the first three penalties were successfully converted. Uli Hoeness lifted his spot kick over the goal to give the Czechs a 4-3 lead. Up stepped Antonin Panenka.
With Sepp Maier diving to the left, anticipating him to shoot to that side Panenka coolly chipped the ball into center of the goal. His calmness despite being under a mountain of pressure has baffled football experts till date. It was almost inhuman. Panenka later admitted that he practiced this penalty frequently with his Bohemians Prague team-mate, goalkeeper Zdeněk Hruška.
His penalty remains one of the most enduring images in football. Such was the impact of his shot that any chipped penalty since then began to be called a “Panenka chip”.