Long Reads

Golden Goal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Even as a neutral there is something special about watching the clock tick towards penalties knowing that one goal could set the metaphorical cat amongst the pigeons. It’s a far cry from the sudden death style football we had through the nineties. Here we cast our minds back to look at the rise and fall of golden goal.

The birth of the Golden Goal

What was Golden Goal?

Depending on your age, it’s feasible you’ve never watched a game where the golden goal rule was in play. Never before – or since – has a football match been in the balance so much. The rule would only come into play in knockout cup competitions and the laws simply stated that in the event a match was tied after normal time the match would be settled by golden goal.

This means that rather than playing out 30 minutes of extra time prior to penalties, it was possible to only play a couple of minutes before a winner was declared. The team that scored the first goal was deemed the winner.

When was the rule introduced?

The concept of using golden goal at the top level was born by minds in a FIFA boardroom back in the early nineties. Trials were run at youth level from 1993 onwards with things seemingly going to plan. From here, the rule moved into more mainstream football with events such as the Olympics and Confederations Cup using the rule to settle matches in their tournaments within a couple of years of the first trial. Again, there were not too many complaints.

The first taste of the rule in club football came in England in 1995. Despite not really having experienced any backlash from the trials to date, the FA were not about to go ‘big bang’ style and use it in either of their main cup competitions. Instead, the rule was introduced into the FA Trophy. At the time, this was called the Auto Windscreen Trophy due to sponsorship deals. For those not in the know, this is a lower league club competition with the highest ranked sides playing in the third tier. The final was settled courtesy of a golden goal.

Why was the rule introduced?

If you’re a fan who follows football in the here and now, you might wonder why they decided on the golden goal rule. To be fair, their decision actually followed a fairly logical path. Yes, it feels wrong to even type that about a football governing body! The lightbulb moment came after a couple of tournaments passed with extra time football proving as dull as dishwater. Maybe it was a fear of losing. Perhaps it was fatigue. Whatever the reason, the point of extra time often proving boring was true.

The rule makers believed that the introduction of the golden goal would force teams to attack. You can imagine it now can’t you? Managers are constantly moaning about having to play an extra half an hour. Win the game inside the first five then. That was the thought process; simply it was intended to make extra time football a better spectacle.

Making it mainstream

When did the golden goal first get used in major competitions?

After a few trials had come and gone without too much noise, the decision was taken to launch the new world of extra time football in a major tournament. Step forward Euro 96.The 16 team tournament saw the knockout stage kick off at the quarter-final stage. That means there were just seven matches eligible to reach extra time. As it happens, five of them did; two quarters, both semis and the final. What a perfect opportunity to display some of this attack-minded, going for the kill style of football the suits thought the golden goal would encourage.

The quarter-finals passed with both drawn matches being settled on penalties. The same thing occurred at the semi-final stage. The new rule was in danger of looking silly. Then came the final. The Czech Republic versus Germany. The winner takes home the European Championship. At the end of the 90, the score was 1-1. Patrick Berger had opened the scoring only for Oliver Bierhoff to cancel it out 14 minutes later. Would the final muster the first high profile golden goal? Absolutely it would. Germany went direct from the back, Bierhoff won the flick on before finding the ball back at his feet. With strength and a swivel he hit an effort towards goal that Petr Kouba couldn’t handle. Germany were Champions. It’s a good job Bierhoff netted too. Germany are terrible at penalties after all!

Golden goal going global

After Bierhoff’s winner papered over any cracks in the rule change, FIFA pressed ahead with the rollout. The next major international tournament was France 98. The same rules would apply. This time there were 16 knockout matches to be played, however, only four required a visit to extra time. Like the Euro’s before them, there would be just the solitary golden goal scored in the tournament.

It came in the round of 16 as the hosts, France, battled Paraguay for a spot in the quarter-finals. The match had ended 0-0 and penalties looked very much on the cards as play ticked into the second period of extra time. On 114 though, David Trezeguet cushioned a header into the path of Laurent Blanc (of all people) and he hit a half volley into the net. France went on to win the tournament. It might never have happened but for Blanc’s golden touch.

Becoming a mainstay

After five years of practice runs and two big tournaments passing without too much negative press it looked like the sudden death approach to extra time was here to stay. Euro 2000 saw two golden goals scored; one was in the semi-final, the other came in the final. Both were scored by France – again. Zinedine Zidane and Trezeguet were the respective scorers.

Then came the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea. We witnessed three golden goals in this tournament. South Korea shocked the Italians in the first knockout round, Senegal netted at the same stage to move beyond Sweden into the quarter-finals and, in a cruel twist, the Senegal squad tasted the other side of the golden goal rule as they suffered at the hands of the eventual third-place side, Turkey.

What about major club competitions?

After first appearing on the elite radar at international level, the rule did work its way into club football as well. Of course, the nature of club competitions are different to that of international football meaning instances of the golden goal coming into play were greatly reduced. For example, pre-existing concepts like away goals prevent a lot of ties from moving into extra time.

There were several golden goals scored in lesser competitions like Super Cups. It just never really got going in the bigger tournaments. The Champions League is, of course, the best of the best and not a single game was settled by the golden goal rule. The UEFA Cup, however, did see the law come into effect – just once. It just so happened it was in the final. Liverpool and Alaves shared eight goals during a thrilling 90 minutes meaning extra time was due. As you might expect, the chances of going 30 minutes without a goal was unlikely given how the main game had played out. Liverpool were the team to profit. Gary McAllister whipped in a free kick and Delfi Geli attempted to head clear; he mistimed his jump though and flicked his header into the far post. An own goal golden goal.

Was the golden goal rule a success?

Not achieving what it set out to do

When you consider that the golden goal served up a series of intriguing results at international tournaments you might think the rule started to prove its worth. It didn’t. Football is an entertainment business and the ‘kill or be killed’ approach at the business end of big matches was doing little to encourage expansive gung-ho football. Instead, teams were petrified of being picked off and, as a result, both teams were happy to bunker down for 30 minutes.

The rule had failed in its objective to make extra time more exciting. In 2003 it was scrapped.

The golden goal rule today

In today’s world the golden goal is pretty much extinct. Attempts were made to rescue some form of improvement to the extra time conundrum but they never materialised into anything remotely successful; do you remember the silver goal? What a farce! Anyway, extra time today is just as it was back in 1992; that’s simply 30 minutes of additional football. The only exception to this where the sudden death style still applies is in college soccer in the United States. They’re welcome to it.

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