The man who gave the Panenka penalty its name

Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Zinédine Zidane, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo have all mastered the spot-kick art over the years, but how much to you know about the pioneer who introduced it to the world? Meet Antonín Panenka.

Panenka lifts the trophy at EURO '76
Panenka lifts the trophy at EURO '76 ©UEFA.com

We've all seen it 100 times. A penalty taker approaches the spot and opts not for power, not for precision, but for deception. As the goalkeeper flings themselves towards their predicted post the taker applies a subtle touch underneath the ball, causing it to rise and fall within the centre of the goal. The helplessly committed keeper watches in vain. The Panenka penalty.

Forty-four years and one day ago almost nobody had seen in, not until the man who gave it its name stamped it on the footballing public consciousness: Czechoslovakia's Antonín Panenka.

And the stage for the unveiling? The ninth penalty of a shoot-out to determine the victors in the final of the 1976 EURO, of course. This was no soft launch.

The context

Highlights: Watch Panenka’s classic 1976 final penalty
Highlights: Watch Panenka’s classic 1976 final penalty

That the 1976 EURO would culminate with the first ever penalty shoot-out in a major tournament was perhaps no surprise: every finals match in Yugoslavia went to extra time. Twice Czechoslovakia led in the Belgrade showpiece; twice world and European champions West Germany equalised, the second in the last minute. A half-hour later penalties were needed, and after Uli Hoeness had smashed West Germany's fourth effort over the bar, 27-year-old Panenka stepped up.

What happened

Some called it a footballing poem, written by a genius. You can watch it a hundred times and the wonder never ceases. Taking the decisive kick in the first shoot-out in a EURO final, Panenka opted for the audacious by delicately chipping the ball over Germany goalkeeper Sepp Maier, as he dived to his left. "I don't think Sepp Maier took it very well," he later recalled. "He was and, perhaps still is, somewhat discomfited – I suspect he probably doesn't like the sound of my name too much."

What it meant

Watch every Panenka penalty at EURO
Watch every Panenka penalty at EURO

Sadly for the great Maier, he has heard the name a fair bit over the years. Panenka's moment of magic sealed Czechoslovakia's only European title, already ensuring a place in the history books. From an individual perspective, a new style of penalty was born. Forever known as the 'Panenka', it has been copied many times, but you cannot improve on the original.

What they said

Antonín Panenka, Czechoslovakia playmaker: "After training [at Bohemians Praha] I used to stay behind with our goalkeeper and take penalties – we would play for a bar of chocolate or a glass of beer. Since he was a very good goalkeeper it became an expensive proposition. So, sometimes before going to sleep I tried to think of ways of getting the better of him, to recoup my losses.

"I got the idea and then I started slowly to test it and apply it in practice. As a side effect I started to gain weight – I was winning the bets! In the end, I chose the penalty in the final because I realised that it was the easiest and simplest way of scoring a goal. It's a simple recipe."

Panenka and Ivo Viktor in semi-final action against Netherlands
Panenka and Ivo Viktor in semi-final action against NetherlandsIcon Sport via Getty Images

Ivo Viktor, Czechoslovakia goalkeeper: "I made a dreadful mistake in the last minute of regular time and we conceded a goal. When I meet Panenka now, I always tell him: 'Without me and my mistake, nobody would have heard of you!' I never believed he would try that penalty in the final – it still seems a bit cheeky to me, even after so many years."

Franz Beckenbauer, West Germany captain: "Only a true champion would come up with such a solution."

Pelé, Brazil forward: "Anyone who takes a penalty like that must be either a genius or a madman."

France Football: "A footballing poet is born."

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