The second tier African inter clubs competition, the CAF Confederation Cup, is in its 14th edition, but the best a Nigerian club has achieved was in 2005 when Dolphins which dropped from the Champions’ League lost to FAR of Morocco.
Last weekend, the two Nigerian entries this year, Wikki Tourists and FC IfeanyiUbah crashed out, signalling the possibility of Nigeria just having a single slot in the competition next year. In crashing out, penalty kick played a major role.
Had Wikki Tourists, which trailed 0-2 from the first leg, converted the 19th minute penalty awarded the team, the story could have been different. But Abubakar Lawal missed the chance. They had another penalty kick chance in the second half which Mustapha Ibrahim converted.
Wikki Tourists crashed out 2-1 on aggregate. To reinforce the importance of penalty kick in the encounter with Sierra Leone Armed Forces team, the encounter would have been decided by penalty kick shootout had Wikki not lost the first chance.
The drama of penalty kick also played out in the later day encounter of FC IfeanyiUbah against Al-Masry SC in Egypt. The hosts cancelled IfeanyiUbah’s solitary goal lead from the first leg by converting a 25th minute penalty.
With scores stalemated at 1-1 at regulation time, penalty shootout became the tie-breaker. Alas! IfeanyiUbah could not convert any of their first three kicks, thus there was no need to stretch the spot kicks to the mandatory five as the Egyptians had taken an unassailable lead.
The lesson here is the need not to overlook any aspect of the game during training. It is obvious both Wikki Tourists and FC IfeanyiUbah did not have a practice session on penalty kicks. It is therefore easy for one to imagine what the outcome would had been if by chance, Wikki Tourists managed to get a second goal in Sunday’s encounter.
They would have failed the penalty kick shootout test. If previous World Cup finals as well as occurrences in both the Africa Nations Cup and Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) and most other competitions are any guide, there is one training practice, which will be just as decisive. It is how to strike the ball from 12 yards.
Nigeria lost the chance of playing in the final of 2014 CHAN on account of poor marksmanship from the penalty spot. Recall that the home-based Super Eagles lost on penalties to Ghana in the semi final. It was obvious penalty taking was not part of the training the coaches gave the home boys.
One is not trying to blame Nigeria’s ouster on the four players (one from Wikki and three from IfeanyiUbah) that missed their kicks. But it is a great lesson for the remaining two teams in CAF Champions League and other teams that may be carrying Nigeria’s flag in the future.
Let’s see roles penalty kicks have played in some competitions. Three of the last four matches of the 2014 Africa Nations Championship in South Africa were decided by penalty shoot-out. Even the Nigeria –Zimbabwe third-place game was saved from similar fate by the solitary goal just five minutes to regulation time.
Zambia won the 2012 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations through penalty shoot-out. Beyond that, what could have been the decider of the game with Cote d’Ivoire was a penalty miss by Didier Drogba during regulation time, recalling the sad memory of how he also lost a vital kick during the penalty shoot-out against Egypt in the final game of the 2006 edition.
Several other celebrated players have equally failed to convert penalty kicks. It is of common knowledge that Ghana could had made a record by qualifying for the semi finals of the 2010 World Cup but for the unpredictable nature of the lottery of penalty kick shootout.
Before Ghana at the World Cup 2010, Cameroon lost the opportunity of getting to the 1990 semi finals of the World Cup through two penalty kicks scored against the African team by England’s Garry Lineker.
It is a common occurrence even at the summit of world football, the FIFA World Cup. Great players, namely, Socrates (1986), Platini (1986), Zico (1986), Maradona (1990), Roberto Baggio (1994) Gerrard (2006) and Lampard (2006) have fumbled at what appears the cheapest goal to be scored in football. Penalties have become part and parcel of recent tournaments.
The 2011/12 European Champions League was decided by penalties. Since 1982 when a World Cup match was decided by penalty shoot-out, there have been 22 of such incidents.
In 1990 World Cup, both semi final matches were decided on spot kicks, while the final match itself was prevented from ending up the same way.
Ironically, it was still decided by a penalty kick, five minutes from regulation time. What was avoided in the 1990 final came four years later. Brazil outshot Italy to claim the World Cup title for a fourth time. At France’98, the hosts had to depend on the lottery of penalty shootout to get off from an hectic quarter final duel with Italy, before eventually winning the trophy on home soil with their ‘multi- national’ squad.
The 2006 World Cup final was decided by penalty shoot-out. From the on-going, it is clear that teams must have learnt to include penalty kick taking in their training schedule.
Four of the last six final matches of the Africa Cup of Nations were decided on penalties.
Penalty kicks have played crucial roles in shaping the champions in 12 of the last 16 editions of Africa Cup of Nations since Libya ’82 that was decided by penalty shoot-out.
Big names in the continent – Nwankwo Kanu, Victor Ikpeba, Samuel Eto’o, and Didier Drogba among others – have missed from the penalty spots.
In Nigeria’s march to victory in 1994, penalty kicks played crucial roles. The Super Eagles had to survive the ordeal
of penalty shoot-out with Cote d’Ivoire in the semi finals It is on record that penalty kicks played crucial roles in shaping Nigeria’s destiny in 2013, 2010, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1994, 1988 and 1984 – a total of nine in Nigeria’s last 10 appearances at the finals. But for the two penalty kick goals in the last group match with Ethiopia, the Super Eagles may not have advanced to face Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter finals.
In 1984, Nigeria survived a lengthy penalty shoot-out against Egypt in the semi final, after scoring a goal from the penalty spot during regulation time. In 1988, it was the same tale, this time against Algeria in the semi finals. A penalty kick award to Cameroon eventually decided Nigeria’s fate in the Maroc’88 final.
Apart from 2000 in Lagos when Cameroon lifted the trophy through Nigeria’s penalty shootout, loss of a penalty in the extra time against Senegal decided the Super Eagles fate in the 2002 semi finals. Nigeria again crashed out of 2004 finals via penalty shootout!
In two of Nigeria’s five World Cup appearances, penalty kicks were largely responsible for Nigeria’s elimination. Roberto Baggio’s conversion of penalty kick in the extra time of a Round of 16 tie enabled Italy to eliminate
Nigeria from USA’94.
At 2002 World Cup, the 63rd minute penalty kick converted by Henrik Larssson for Sweden, in Nigeria’s second match, technically knocked out the Super Eagles from the World Cup.
Penalty kicks also proved decisive for other African teams in the African Nations Cup. Cameroon, Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire lost vital matches via penalty shoot-out at 2006 African Nation Cup finals.
The keepers who saved the kicks were the heroes, while the outfield players whose kicks missed the targets were the villains. It once again unfolded at Brazil 2014 World Cup. But who will be jumping and which player will bent double in tears? In 1982, Italy’s Antonio Cabrini wrote his name into the World Cup record books as the first player to miss a penalty in the final.
He looked dejected after his 25th minute spot kick went wide in the game with the then West Germany. Penalty kicks, especially the shoot-outs, are made for television. They are fast, exciting while being a fairer means of tie-breaking than the toss of a coin.
But the Italians will not like to believe this after the Azzuris lost the USA’94 World Cup final through penalty shoot-out and had gone out through the same process at home in the Italia’90 World Cup semi final.
So, coaches of Nigerian teams, let penalty kicks be an integral part of training sessions.