Antonín Panenka (born on the 2nd of December, 1948, in Prague) is a former Czech International footballer, who played most of his league football for Bohemians Prague.

Panenka won the 1976 European Championship with Czechoslovakia, scoring the winning penalty in the final against West Germany.

Using the technique that now bears his name, otherwise known as the ‘falling leaf”, Panenka dinked a softly chipped ball down the middle of the goal as the goalie dived away from it. No one had ever done this before, at least not in a televised game or where it had been reported.

After the match had ended in a 2-2 draw, Panenka stepped up in the resulting penalty shoot-out with the chance to secure Czechoslovakia’s first ever major international football title.

Facing Sepp Maier in goal, Panenka strolled up to the ball and put it straight down the middle, with the German ‘keeper diving away to his left.

“I suspect that he [Maier] doesn’t like the sound of my name too much. I never wished to make him look ridiculous,” Panenka told

“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.”

Pele said that it was the work of “either a genius or a madman”, and Panenka’s innovation has earned him a place in footballing lore.

Henceforth known as the “Panenka Penalty”, they are great when they come off, but massively embarrassing for the penalty taker when they don’t.

Here are some of the best, and worst, examples.

Zinedine Zidane, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ Final

The irrepressible Zinedine Zidane took the perfect Panenka in the final between France and Italy. The match was just six minutes in when the Real Madrid galactico had the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Zizou stepped up and lofted the ball over Gianluigi Buffon, clipping the underside of the crossbar and bouncing over the line.

The El Loco Panenka

El Loco, Uruguayan forward Sebastian Abreu, produced a Panenka of his own four years later in The World Cup in South Africa.

After a 1-1 draw with Ghana, Uruguay were just one spot-kick away from their first semi-final in 40 years. The Panenka technique is built on the assumption that, more often than not, the goalkeeper will dive out of the way and, luckily for Abreu, Richard Kingson did just that.

Abreu feels that he deserves the same recognition as Zidane received for his Panenka:

“What word did you use to describe Zidane’s penalty?” asked the veteran striker. “Crazy? No, magical. So why not Abreu? Those are the decisions you have to take. And at the same time you have to try your best and make sure the ball goes in.”

Totti and EURO 2000

Francesco Totti displayed his trademark self-confidence by scoring with a variation on the standard Panenka in emphatic style against the Netherlands in the semi-final of EURO 2000.

Totti put Gli Azzurri 3-0 up on penalties by sending Edwin van der Sar the wrong way, chipping the ball into the right-hand corner of the net.

England’s years of hurt

Both Helder Postiga and Andrea Pirlo have inflicted Panenka penalty misery on England at tournaments.
Postiga scored past David James in EURO 2004, and Pirlo left Joe Hart on his arse in the quarter final of EURO 2012.
Pirlo said:

“I saw the goalkeeper making strange movements, so I waited for him to move and hit it like that.
“It was easier for me to chip it at that stage. Maybe my effort put some pressure on England and Ashley Young missed the next one after me.

When the ‘falling leaf” leaves you with egg on your face

All Nantes captain and goalie Mikel Landreau had to do was score in the penalty shootout to take the 2004 Coupe de la Ligue title, but his lofted effort was caught easily by opposite number Teddy Richert, who saved again moments later to give Sochaux the title that year.

Brazilian superstar Neymar has had his fair share of problems with the Panenka. He missed one in a 2010 pre-season friendly for Santos, and again in the Copa do Brasil final, where he lofted the ball tamely into the grateful Vitoria goalkeeper’s hands.

Prestigious and prodigious Brazilian penalty-taker and goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni chose to dink his Penenka straight down the middle, only for Tiago Cardoso to acrobatically deny the Brazilian international. Was it a bad execution of the Penenka, or a great save? You decide.

Marko Devic tried one in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League. With 15 minutes remaining, and trailing 2-0 on aggregate to Olympiacos, his deft effort from 12 yards didn’t fool Balazs Megyeri, who made an easy save.

Bosnia-born Croatia striker Branimir Hrgota opened his Borussia Monchengladbach account with an incredibly cheeky Panenka penalty last season. But the youngster was left red faced after attempting the same trick and failing in his side’s penalty shootout defeat by Darmstadt in the DFP Cup. Hrgota missed the decisive kick after his effort came off the crossbar and bounced out, sending the Bundesliga side crashing out of the first round.

The giraffe-like Peter Crouch was on his way to a maiden England hat-trick in their warm-up game for Germany 2006 against the reggae boys of Jamaica when he thought he’d try one.

The score was 5-0 to England when he stepped up for his penalty, only to put too much power into his chip, sending it sailing over the bar. While the should’ve-been-a-basketball-player striker completed his hattrick later and walked away with the match ball, his failed Penenka did serve as a warning to others: caution – it’s not as easy as Panenka made it look.

Other cheeky penalties

Other cheeky penalties, besides Panenkas, include Theyab Awana’s cheeky backheeled penalty for UAE against Lebanon, Joonas Jokinen of Swiss side FC Baar converted a penalty whilst executing a spectacular somersault at the same time, and Ezequiel Calvente took his run-up and positioned himself to hit the spot kick with his right foot but surprised everyone by hitting with his left instead. Not dissimilar to Calvente’s goal, Grindavik defender Alexander Magnusson scored with his leading leg whilst putting in a great fake right-foot shot; and, last but not least, the legendary Johann Cryuff had people consulting the rule book when, instead of shooting directly at goal, the Dutch master passed the ball to teammate Jesper Olsen who then drew the keeper out before sliding the ball back to Cruyff for a famous goal that was, in fact, perfectly legal. Arsenal’s Robert Pires and Thierry Henry tried to do the same thing in 2005, but botched it in hilarious fashion.

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