Antonin Panenka (Czechoslovakia v West Germany, 1976)

In the July issue of FourFourTwo, Antonin Panenka exclusively recalls the greatest and most imitated penalty of all time: the chip that won the European Championship and inspired a million copycats.

On FourFourTwo.com, we give you his full, unabridged account of that goal.

"All my team-mates knew that I had a special surprise if we got to a penalty shoot-out situation. They were sure that if the moment came I had this surprise, and they were 100 per cent sure that I was going to score – me? I was 1,000 per cent certain.

I knew that there was no way any goalkeeper was going to stand in the middle of the goal and not move before I hit it – I knew that he was going to go either left or right, all I had to do was to chip it straight down the middle. I had to get it in the air because if it was along the ground then the goalkeeper had a chance of stopping the ball with his feet.

The German who took the penalty before [Uli Hoeness] had just missed so I knew that if I scored the championship would be ours. That raised the pressure, but I didn’t feel it – I just felt very calm as I ran up and took it. If it had gone wrong then obviously I would have looked a fool, but I knew there was no way that was going to happen: I hadn’t practiced for two years to make a mess of it.

It took me two years to perfect the penalty. I would spend a lot of time practising the penalty in training, and then tried it out twice in matches, but during the tournament in Yugoslavia I didn’t give anyone a chance to see it – I didn’t want to give it away, so I would just take normal penalties in training. We didn’t want any spies to see what I had in store.

Two years before the European Championship I had an idea that I wanted to create a surprise for the tournament and every day in our home stadium I trained with this style of penalty. In the meantime, I used the penalty once in a friendly and once in the Czech League, so I had already used it in a match situation. I scored both times. I took both penalties against the best goalkeeper in the country: Ivo Viktor, who was voted the best goalkeeper at Euro ’76. If I could score against him then I could score against anyone.


Panenka (second left) and Viktor (right) rejoice with their daughters

I guess we were ahead of our time, really, because we brought in local fans to stand behind the goal making a loud noise while we were training with our penalties. It was never going to be like a real penalty shoot-out but at least it put us under a bit of pressure.

It wasn’t an ideal situation because we conceded a goal in the last minute of normal time and we were very tired. The atmosphere wasn’t that positive going into extra time. We were afraid of what would happen, so we were really holding out for that penalty shoot-out – we thought that was our best way of winning the game.

Viktor was very good and the Germans didn’t have the reputation with penalties then that they have now. For both teams, we were really go into the unknown after extra time – no tournament had been decided in that way before, so it was something completely different.

For me, the penalty was a double-sided coin. On the one hand, it was fantastic to score the goal that won the European Championship for my country, and even now, over 35 years on, people still talk about it the whole time. But on the other hand, it’s the only thing that many people remember me for. The other goals, the free-kicks, everything else I did in my career didn’t seem to matter. Everyone only ever wants to talk to me about this penalty.

I have seen many people try to imitate the penalty in the years since, but no one has quite mastered it. Even now I see kids in the Czech Republic trying to copy what I did, so it has stood the test of time.

I suppose, looking back now, it was pretty brave to do that in a final – but in 1976 I didn’t think that way. I was just sure that this was my best way of scoring and our best way of winning the tournament.

Interview: Richard Edwards. Illustration: German Aczel. From the July issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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