With Rickie Lambert scoring his 32nd penalty in a row to give Southampton FC an opening-day victory at West Bromwich Albion FC, UEFA.com picks out ten masters from the spot.
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Southampton FC's Rickie Lambert is being acclaimed in England after converting his 32nd penalty in a row for the club – a better record even than club legend Matthew Le Tissier, credited as England's best ever penalty taker with 48 conversions from 49 attempts in his career.
Lambert missed from the spot for some of his previous clubs, but the Liverpudlian has been brilliant since joining the Saints. "I'm not counting," said the 31-year-old, who spent four months putting lids on jars of beetroot to earn a living after being released by Blackpool FC aged 19 but recently scored on his England debut against Scotland. "I'm always confident taking a pen and hopefully that will continue."
UEFA.com celebrates some ten more masters from the penalty spot, past and present.
Matthew Le Tissier (England, 1986-2002)
A hero for Southampton, 'Le God' was one of Xavi Hernández's childhood heroes, though more for his brilliantly nonchalant dribbling skills than his extraordinary record from the penalty spot. He famously missed just one penalty in a reported 49 career attempts, explaining his technique simply: "I stuck it in the corner, and if the keeper went the right way it was hard enough to beat him."
Ivan Krstanović (Croatia, 2000-present)
The GNK Dinamo Zagreb forward has by all accounts never missed a penalty in his career, assuring UEFA.com that "it's at least 30 goals". After scoring in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw against FC Dynamo Kyiv last season, he said: "Everyone keeps asking me to reveal my secret but, if I told everyone my technique it wouldn't be a secret any more, would it?"
Davor Šuker (Croatia, 1984-2003)
Another masterful Croatian penalty-taker, Davor Šuker definitely missed two penalties in his career but has lost count of how many he scored, with calmness crucial to his technique, as shown in the 1998 FIFA World Cup when he was asked to retake a penalty against Romania. "I took an extra second and I checked my pulse," he said. "I wasn't scared." He converted both efforts.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, 2002-present)
The striker hit a purple patch at Real Madrid CF, converting 24 in a row before missing in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League semi-final shoot-out against FC Bayern München. "A player who takes a penalty is a player without fear," said his former coach José Mourinho, adding: "The best players, such as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, also fail. Football is like that – that's life."
Hans-Joachim Abel (Germany, 1972-84)
Lothar Matthäus missed three from 30, and Manfred Kaltz scored 53 out of 60, but Fortuna Düsseldorf, VfL Bochum 1848 and FC Schalke 04 striker Abel is statistically the Bundesliga's best, reportedly converting all 16 of his spot-kicks. "The most important thing is total concentration," he said. "You've got to block out everything else and if you do, the goalkeeper shouldn't have a chance."
Dmitri Kirichenko (Russia, 1994-present)
The striker began a run of 21 straight conversions at FC Rostselmash in 2000, maintaining it with PFC CSKA Moskva and FC Moskva before missing for the first time at the 22nd attempt for FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast in 2009. "That was annoying," reflected 36-year-old, whose record now stands at 26 goals from 27 attempts. "The goalkeeper was two or three metres off his line before I hit it."
Ovidiu Herea (Romania, 2003-present)
"Ever since I started my professional career, I have spent at least an hour after training practicing penalties," said Herea. However, the 27-year-old's record of 19 conversions from 19 for FC Național București and FC Rapid București might have ended last year when Răzvan Pleșca (his former Național team-mate) saved his effort against CS Gaz Metan Mediaș, only for the referee to order a retake – which the midfielder put away.
David Villa (Spain, 1999-present)
Deadly from the penalty spot with Real Sporting de Gijón, Real Zaragoza and Valencia CF, David Villa scored 31 of his 33 Liga penalties, but the 31-year-old did not take a top-flight spot kick for FC Barcelona, though he continues to do so for Spain. After nine months out with a broken leg, he returned to action by netting a penalty in a friendly win against Saudi Arabia in September 2012. "It's good to be back," he said afterwards.
Ledio Pano (Albania, 1986-2001)
Midfielder Pano boasted a 100% record in over 50 penalties in his career in Albania and Greece, with one-time FK Partizani team-mate Niko Frasheri noting: "We had faith in him. His precision with those shots was second to none." Pano, who spent hours practicing penalties after training sessions, added: "I never looked the keeper in the eye. I always just knew where I was going to put the ball."
Vladislav Stoyanov (Bulgaria, 1982-1994)
Stoyanov scored 24 from 24 top-flight penalties in the 1980s and 1990s with PFC Chernomorets Burgas and PFC Lokomotiv Sofia though he admitted "I missed one for Chernomorets in the second division". Now Bulgaria Under-19 coach, he told UEFA.com: "Usually I looked at the goalkeeper to see at which way he would go and slightly delayed my kick. That usually worked, but if in doubt I also had my favourite spot to hit my penalties."