The 2012 UEFA European Championship has been an enjoyable spectacle of the beautiful game. But after 24 group-stage and three quarterfinal games, Euro 2012 was missing a defining game (or moment) that fans would be talking about for years to come. That changed on Sunday.
England and Italy were in the midst of a dramatic penalty-kick shootout following 120 minutes of goalless action. After two rounds of shooters, England was leading 2-1 when Andrea Pirlo stepped forward.
As the Italian midfielder ran up to take his penalty kick, England goalkeeper Joe Hart started leaning to his right to dive in that direction. Instead of striking the ball with power and precision as most shooters do, Pirlo swept his foot underneath it. The ball floated in the air for what seemed like minutes before falling gently into the goal. Hart was powerless to stop it, as he had already dove out of the way.
“I saw that the goalkeeper was really fired up and I thought about doing that,” Pirlo said. “It was easier to shoot that way and it put a bit of pressure on the goalkeeper.”
Pirlo’s goal gave Italy a huge psychological boost and simultaneously deflated England. England’s next two shooters would miss their spot-kicks, while the Italians made theirs to seal the a place in the semifinal. Italy manager Cesare Prandelli praised Pirlo for his game-changing moment of genius.
“When Andrea Pirlo stepped up I was very calm -– he’s a star and knew what he needed to do and he did it,” Prandelli told UEFA.com.
The chipped penalty kick, known in some circles as a “Panenka,” is one of soccer’s boldest moves. It is named after Antonin Panenka, who won Euro 1976 for Czechoslovakia with the shot. Pele once said a player must be “either a genius or a madman” to try and score that way.
Pirlo using it when his team needed him most says a lot about his temperament and ability. When history remembers Euro 2012, there will be a page dedicated to Italy’s midfield maestro, who may have saved this edition of the tournament from fading into obscurity. England-Italy was one gripping contest, and Pirlo’s Panenka serves as the defining moment of the “iconic” game.
Watch Pirlo’s audacious Panenka penalty in the video below.
Watch the original Panenka spot-kick in the video below