Greatest Penalties of All Time - Nerves of Steel and Creativity of Artists Combined

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 3.6.2024.


Seemingly the most identical goals can be scored from the spot kick - the distance is always the same, the keeper and the shooter are in their designated spaces, and the rules of movement are rigid. Yet, there are some penalty kicks that stand out and have become memorable even more so than 40-yard screamers, or dribbling slaloms ending in humiliated defences. The greatest penalties of all time remind us that every situation in football can be a place for creativity, uniqueness, and more.

Djibril Cisse Panathinaikos vs Panionios - Greek Superleague

Another from the category of howitzers. Djibril Cisse was a cult favourite striker and his legend rose later in his career with Panathinaikos due to this thunderous penalty. The indefensible shoot ended up so high in the corner of the net, so fiercely, that the net had no option but to adopt the ball. Not even a celebration was necessary for Cisse, all the energy went into that shot.

Charles Aranguiz - Chile vs Brazil - World Cup 2014

Even though 10 years have passed, Chileans still say that the net in the Estadio Mineirao stadium of Belo Horizonte is still shaking from the power shot of Charles Aranguiz. In the first round of the knockout stages, the hosts Brazil were held to a 1:1 draw after 120 minutes. Aranguiz's teammates missed the first two penalties of the shootout, making his third attempt all that more important.

Arganguiz dealt with the pressure in the best way possible, blasting it away with a penalty that left Julio Cesar glued to the ground. The goalkeeper seemed as an onlooker of a rally race whose participation in the event consisted of merely moving their neck towards the rushing-by object.

Arturo Vidal - Juventus vs Milan - Serie A

Some of these greatest penalties of all time were selected because of the technique, some because of the boldness, some because of the power, some for creativity. Arturo Vidal gets his spot amongst the best penalty kicktakers due to his perfect placement in this penalty against Juventus. And after all, that is the name of the game for converting penalties. Putting two goalkeepers or even a 9-foot alien from Avatar wouldn't have prevented the Chilean from scoring this perfectly placed penalty that took the spider web from the corner of the post.

Some of these greatest penalties of all time were selected because of the technique, some because of the boldness, some because of the power, some for creativity. Arturo Vidal gets his spot amongst the best penalty kicktakers due to his perfect placement in this penalty against Juventus. And after all, that is the name of the game for converting penalties. Putting two goalkeepers or even a 9-foot alien from Avatar wouldn't have prevented the Chilean from scoring this perfectly placed penalty that took the spider web from the corner of the post.

Oscar Cardozo - Libertad vs Cerro Porteno - Paraguayan Primera

Perhaps not so much of a penalty, as much as it is an assault with a football ball. Oscar Cardozo was known for his penalty kick ability, yet he saved his masterpiece for late in his career. Although Cardozo was not the refined penalty artist like the ones we will encounter below, rather more of a brute painter with broad strokes that pierce through the canvas.

Already on a hat-trick as he placed the ball onto the white spot and tried to assassinate Cerro Porteno's goalkeeper Jean. The ball went down the middle and nearly took the head of the keeper, ricocheting off his shoulder into the net. Leaving the keeper shell-shocked.

Ezequiel Calvente - Spain U19 vs Italy U19 - EURO U19

If not the greatest penalty ever taken, it’s certainly the coolest. Ezequiel Calvente didn't have the best of careers, aged 33 now, with only six games in the top five leagues. Spending most of his career in the Spanish second division, but also playing in Hungary. Yet he is immortalised with the penalty scored when he represented Spain at the U19 European Championship.

Playing against Italy in 2010, and alongside Iker Muniain and Thiago Alcantara, the winger got to shot the penalty. The right-footed player took a usual wind-up, but instead of finally placing his left foot next to the ball for a right-footed shot, he used it to kick the ball unexpectedly - before his right foot finished its swing. A trick shot that paid off.

Aritz Aduriz - Athletic Bilbao vs Valladolid - La Liga

Aritz Aduriz retired with 589 club games, in which he scored 226 goals. But perhaps the most memorable one is the one from a penalty. It was an ordinary league game in the second to last season of his career, so the Spaniard was feeling extra-confident. Even though it was December and he only scored once in the season prior.

Aduriz didn't take a big swing, the opposite actually, he took just one step - if that, depending on how you look at it - and bagged the ball into the net with precision. A futsal goal amongst friends in the Spanish top flight.

Andrea Pirlo - Italy vs England -EURO quarter-finals


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A penalty shootout creme de la cream offering. Andrea Pirlo was gearing up to take a penalty in the third series of the spot-kick duel. In an intense match of the quarter-finals, two European powerhouses measured up, but there's no question who the favourites were. England was running fumes on its golden generation, but it was still a team of John Terry, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney. On the other side, Pirlo was the key outfield player, the most experienced, and he proved it.

After his teammate and many believed successor Ricardo Montolivo missed in the second series, Pirlo had extra pressure. But he extinguished it all with a chipped penalty - a panenka which turned Joe Hart from a goalkeeper into a breakdancer.

Johan Cruyff (+Jesper Olsen) - Ajax vs Helmond Sport - Eredivisie

Technically... this wasn't a penalty kick. Yet it is firmly lodged into football's history books as one of the greatest penalties of all time. Albeit it was rarely replicated - especially successfully - it's also one of the most influential penalties ever. Johan Cruyff, one of football's few true visionaries, looked at the game without constraints even before his managerial time.

Knowing that the rules of penalties only state that the ball has to be played forward, not shot at a goal, instead of blasting it towards the net - he passed it to his teammate Jesper Olsen who played it back and Cruyff scored an easy goal. Hence, a usual Eredivisie 5:0 trashing in 1982 became one of the most memorable games in football - with creativity. We still count it as a penalty.

Zinedine Zidane - France vs Italy - World Cup final

The penalty that defined the art of spot-kick-taking for an entire generation. Perhaps even the perfect penalty across the board. In a venue fitting of such a masterpiece, the Olympiastadion Berlin, Zizou got the occasion started in the most fitting of manners. The seventh minute was being played when Zidane stood across one of the greatest goalkeepers of the generation Gianluigi Buffon - who only recently retired - and decided to play it completely unsafe.

After banging one penalty hard earlier in the tournament, Zizou took a short wind-up and when everyone, including Buffon, expected another thunder they witnessed art. A Panenka. A chip that went so perfectly high that it chipped the crossbar. Physicists envied the spin of the ball as it bounced to the floor behind the goalline and then bounced outside. If only to give a glimmer of hope to the Italians that the boldness didn't pay off will be remembered as arrogance.

But the referee saw it, we all witnessed, the ball went over the line and Zizou chipped himself into football art history books. Before making himself infamous by losing his cool some 100 minutes later in extra time and overshadowing his own mastery with stupidity.

Antonin Panenka - Czech Republic vs West Germany - EURO Final

Even though Zizou did make the world spin with his penalty as much as he did the ball, he was still a copycat. The original is the man whose name is now forever linked with cutting up the ball while shooting a penalty. Not only did Panenka become the man for whom this style of shooting a penalty became known, but he also became known for it because of when and where he did it. At the highest of stages, in the final hour.

The Czech Republic was playing West Germany in the UEFA Euro's final in 1976 and the game went into a penalty shootout. With the shootout score at 4:3, Panenka took the ball and faced up with a legend in his own right - Sepp Maier. Sending the German to his left, Panenka chipped the ball and it went down the middle and into history.

Even though he was proclaimed a poet, an artist, and a madman for it, the taker of the greatest penalty in the history of football had a far more sober view of it.

"On the contrary, I chose the penalty because I saw and realised it was the easiest and simplest recipe for scoring a goal. It is a simple recipe," said Panenka.




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