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When great players get it wrong with penalties

FOOTBALL By Sammy Kitula | February 1st 2017
Cameroon's defender Ambroise Oyongo (R) challenges Senegal's forward Sadio Mane during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final football match between Senegal and Cameroon in Franceville on January 28, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

Ronaldo. The other Ronaldo. Roberto Baggio. David Beckham. John Terry. Wayne Rooney and now, Sadio Mane.

These are just but a few names of great stars that have been reduced to tears and ridicule after missing penalties. The list reads like the ‘who is who’ in football circles.

When it comes to penalties, no one is a master. Even the best players get it wrong, but to miss a penalty when your side needs you most is rather inexcusable.

With that costly miss, no one will care of your pedigree on the field. Few will pay homage to your dribbling artistry and of course, it will be of little concern to millions of fans that you had been their top striker... all gone in seconds.

To fans, this should be another easy take. A leisurely walk of some sorts. To them, it should be more of a small step; brief stop; quick glance and bang!

But unbeknown to them, penalty kicks are one of the most high pressure situations a player can find himself/herself in. All of a sudden, focus and subsequent pressure is turned to the penalty taker, who is facing a goalkeeper with nothing to lose.

From about 10m away, the taker is expected to convert with ease. But at times, nerves get the better of them, calamity can strike and they slip, or better still, the goalkeeper can be equal to the task and make a daring save.

Penalties during normal time can change tempo of a match, but post-match shootouts present a nail-biting moments. Even when one is thousands of kilometres away, the tension is real. And when that costly miss comes at the most critical stage, the player suddenly turns from hero to a villain and remains so for years to come.

Remember Roberto Baggio? During the 1994 Fifa World final between Italy and Brazil, the epic had to be decided through penalties.

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