Chris Waddle: What it’s like to miss in a penalty shootout

1990 World Cup Semi Final, Turin, Italy, 4th July, 1990, West Germany 1 v England 1 (West Germany win 4-3 on penalties), England's Chris Waddle fires his penalty over the bar past the dive of West German goalkeeper Bodo Illgner in the shoot -out, The penalty miss meant that England were eliminated from the tournament and West Germany reached their third consecutive World Cup Final  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

In 1990, England lost in a penalty shootout to West Germany in the World Cup semi final. Chris Waddle missed the final spot kick. He tells us what that was like.

“I wasn’t even meant to take one Gazza was going to be the fifth taker, but everyone saw how upset he was after getting the yellow card — meaning he’d miss the final if we got there. So the manager, Bobby Robson, asked for a volunteer. Unluckily for me I put my hand up. Actually, I was the only one who volunteered, so it was really me or nobody.

“Throughout my career I’d only taken about three penalties. I was never a penalty taker — even in my school team I avoided them. Having said that, if Gazza had taken the fifth then I probably would have taken the sixth one, if it had come to that.

“I was going to try and place the shot but changed my mind. My plan was to put it to the goalkeeper’s left, but then I thought I’d go for a blast so it would have to be a good save to stop it. And, of course, it didn’t work out. There’s a saying in football about hitting the ball ‘too well’ — if you know what I mean — and unfortunately for me, I did.

“We honestly believed that whoever won the semi-final between ourselves and Germany would go on to win against Argentina in the final. The Germans were very gracious in victory. They were very respectful and didn’t gloat or rub it in. I have to say, if we’d won then we might have done some of that. We’d have been on a high and might have gone a bit over the top. Lothar Matthäus, the German captain, came to me after I missed and commiserated and that was good of him. He didn’t have to do that.

“But there’s not a lot you can say to someone who’s just missed a penalty in a shoot-out in aWorld Cup semi-final. What can you do about it? It’s a lottery, that’s football. There really wasn’t a lot said in the changing room afterwards; there were just a lot of tears.

“Advice for anyone in that situation? Yeah: don’t volunteer [laughs].”

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For Esquire Magazine

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