EURO 1976: Antonin Panenka and the greatest penalty of all time

In the final round of Euro 1976, Czechoslovakia beat holdersWest Germany to win the then European Nation’s Cup. Czechoslovakia’s fairy-tale run and triumph paved way to one of the most iconic images of an international football tournament and gave birth to an infamous penalty-kick, the Panenka Penalty, which was named after a gifted midfielder playing for Czechoslovakia, Antonín Panenka. 

In 1967, the young Panenka initially started his career and debuts with one of Prague’s smaller clubs, Bastaemians Praha for which he scored 76 goals in 230 appearances. Panenka was known for the quality of his passing and free-kick taking. He was just a player for most people but Czech Republic and Slovakian people until the historic moment in 1976 made him an icon.

The Czechs started the tournament as underdogs with Netherlands and West Germany as top favourites to win. During that time, only four countries are qualified in the final tournament, with the tournament consisting of the semi-finals, a third place play-off, and the final. This was also the last tournament in which the hosts had to qualify for the final stage.

It was also the only time that all four matches in the final tournament of the then were decided after extra time, either on penalties or by goals scored. With the help of that extra time,following the match ended 1-1 at 90 minutes an Anton Ondrusinspired Czechoslovakia overcame the Oranje and another extra time goals from Neheda and Vesely that propelled them to the finals.

In the final tournament, the reigning World and European Champions was at the back of the underdog two early goals from Jan Svehlik and Karol Dobias halted the Germans. DeiterMuller managed to equalize the match, with Holzenbein scored by with a minute left on the clock. The next half hour wasgoalless that led to extra time, the first major final to be decided on penalties.

During the penalties, the first seven tries converted into a goal until Uli Hoeness halted West Germany’s fourth attempt. The Czechs fate was in the hands of Antonin Panenka. This was the first time that a penalty was taken but eventually it became famous. Panenka stepped up to take the decisive spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out and chip the ball down the middle of the goal.The rest is history.

Following the success, Panenka was allowed a transfer abroad in 1981, several European giants had lined up for his signature but due to his advancing age, he chose to play for Rapid Vienna in Austria where he scored 63 goals in 127 matches. He won two league titles in Austrian Cup with Rapid Vienna, and he also made an appearance in the 1985 European Cup Winners Cup final against Everton.

Panenka has since worked as a coach after retiring from football at the age of 38 in 1987. The Panenka Penalty remain with a couple of big names used it to win a match, including Francesco Totti did it for Italy against Holland in the semi-finals of Euro 2000, and 12 years later compatriot Andrea Pirlo followed suit as the Azzurri dumped England out of Euro 2012.