For the longest time in my 20 years as a soccer fan, one thing I found more maddening than anything else was the short corner. You’ve done all that work to get a free chance to swing the ball into the box, where everybody is. Instead, someone plays a short little pass to someone else, who usually plays it back to the corner taker, who then tries to whip in the same kind of cross, but this time with defenders all over him.
I thought, for the longest time, that this would be the number-one thing that would aggravate me about The Beautiful Game – well, except the existence of Christian Miles – but, alas, I was wrong.
What is annoying the hell out of me now is the multiple instances of players – normally good players in their own right – taking penalties as if they are Lieutenant Dan on valium.
It started with one of my own favorite teams in the FA Cup semifinal Sunday morning. You will of course remember that Everton and Manchester United jogged around the pitch for two hours, exchanging restaurant recommendations before the rules stipulated that, you know, someone had to win.
So, Everton’s heart-filled Tim Cahill stepped up for the first kick of the tiebreaker, and promptly sent the ball to the south coast.
He was outdone just a minute later, when United forward Dimitar Berbatov came to the spot for his team’s first effort.
Ha. Effort. Right. He put the same effort into the attempt that I put into Statistics class my sophomore year of college. As soon as I learned it wasn’t going to be about how to figure out Barry Bonds’ OPS, I dropped the class.
Berbatov didn’t execute a full run up, then hit a soft “shot” to his left that Everton and US goalkeeper Tim Howard easily saved. It was later termed a “great” penalty save by the FSC studio person. No save is great if I could have made it while holding a beer in one hand.
Watch the whole shootout here. Berbatov’s horrific effort comes at about the 2:00 mark.
[ame=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C33U-PPsScc”%5DYouTube – Man.Utd 2-4 Everton FA Cup Semi Final Penalties [HD][/ame]
Incredibly, however, Berbatov was outdone today. For whatever reason, I found myself watching Real Madrid-Getafe in mid-week La Liga match. Madrid, of course, need every point it can get in a desperate effort to track down Barcelona for the league title.
Anyway, with the match level at 2-2 late on, Getafe were gifted a penalty when Madrid defender Pepe pushed Francisco Casquero to the ground (lightly), then kicked at him (and perhaps the ball), then raked his cleat across Casquero’s back. Game reports don’t indicate it, but on the GolTV feed, it also appeared that Pepe stomped on the back of Casquero’s leg during the ensuring arguments.
Casquero took the penalty he drew and ran up to the ball like one of those old cartoon characters, whose legs move furiously, but the character never moves. Casquero eventually got there, then nudged (for lack of a better term) the ball toward the middle and Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas. Casillas caught the ball in mid-air, looking stunned that he practically got to field it like a soft two-hopper to short.
Here’s Casquero’s powerful strike.
[ame=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w88XkN7wJPk”%5DYouTube – casquero falla penalty[/ame]
Moments later, Gonzalo Higuain found himself free in the Getafe defense and launched a shot that won the game for his team, keeping them alive in the race for now.
Hit the ball Casquero!!! How many chances does a player get to step the spot at the Bernabeu against Madrid and beat them? And you softly tap the ball toward the goal as if there were a spider on the ball and you don’t want to kill it?
I don’t know where all this crap started. Many credit Manchester United’s Ronaldo, with his little stutter (and sometimes full-out stop) before he takes kicks. But even Berbatov has done that before and then crushed the ball home.
Just as with the short corner, I don’t understand the concept of being given a free chance at goal, and not hammering the damn thing home. Say what you will about Cahill’s miss, but at least he hit it with purpose. Berbatov’s is made even more inexcusable because Cahill had already missed, and thus United were already in the ascendency, only to see Berbatov give it back.
Casquero had an upset win on his boot, got cute, and paid for it. It was a garbage attempt and a deserved result. I didn’t want to see Madrid win due to Pepe’s antics, but Getafe threw their chance away with almost a snobbish disdain. We can win? No thanks, we’ll have the veal.
There’s just no good reason for it.
But fear not, in the wake of Berbatov’s folly, the UK’s Daily Mail compiled five misses worse than Berbatov’s. There’s some great quality in the list, all with video.