John F. Russell: Finding excitement in soccer
Steamboat Springs — It’s an age-old question in the world of sports.
When the final seconds click off the clock, and a game officially comes to an end, there has to be a winner, right? But what happens if, at the end of regulation, there isn’t a winner.
Welcome to overtime, welcome to the world of extra innings and welcome to the wonderful world of deciding a game with everything on the line.
For the players, those extra moments are filled with pressure, and most understand that a single motion could make the difference in the outcome of the game.
For the fan, it’s also tense, but I would argue that it is one of the most exciting things about watching sports. I would take an overtime shootout over a blowout any day of the week. But maybe that’s because the teams I root for are normally on the wrong side of most blowouts — or at least four Super Bowls.
Football is one of my favorite overtime sports, but not the football most people in the United States think about when you say the word — I’m talking about soccer.
The game between Germany and Italy last Saturday in the 2016 UEFA European Championships provides the perfect example of how every overtime game should end.
I have to say the game of soccer has one of the best ways of breaking a tie — ever. The better team doesn’t always win the game, but as a shootout unfolds, the excitement grows exponentially. I’ve sat through a lot of extra-inning baseball games where I was happy when the other team finally hit a walk-off homer.
In a soccer shootout, each of the team’s offensive stars are stacked in a specific order. The shooter simply has to beat the goalie, who stands 12 yards away.
The two teams alternate, with the top five shooters from each team getting a shot. If the score is still tied after those shooters get their chance, then the cycle moves to the next wave of shooters, who all have to be on the field when regulation play ended, until a outcome is made.
I know there are a lot of people, even a few friends, who would disagree with me. Some of my soccer friends hate the shootout. But like I said, the shootout isn’t meant to determine the better team — the squads have 90 minutes and two overtime periods to settle that question.
The overtime shootout is simply meant to determine a winner, and it’s exciting to watch the shooters on the field face the pressure of having to make that shot, and it’s thrilling to watch a goalkeeper attempt to out-guess a shooter, and then somehow come away with a save.
In the perfect world, all games would be determined in regulation, and at the end of the game we would all know which team was better no matter what the scoreboard said. But with that said I have to say that soccer knows how to put the excitement into overtime.
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