The Panenka is a penalty kick technique in association football in which the taker, instead of kicking the ball to the goalkeeper’s left or right, gives a light touch underneath the ball, causing it to rise and fall within the centre of the goal, deceiving the goalkeeper who is expected to have guessed a side and committed to a dive away from the center.
Antonn Panenka, a Czech player, devised the trick and debuted it to the world in the UEFA Euro 1976 final in Belgrade, when he defeated West German goalkeeper Sepp Maier to win the tournament for the Czechoslovak national team.
The Panenka kick has only been used a few times since its highly publicized debut in the tournament, and only by highly regarded players who can deal with the ramifications of failing such an attempt.
In Italy, this form of penalty kick is known as Il cucchiaio (“the spoon”), in Brazil as cavadinha (“small dig”), and in Argentina and elsewhere in South America as penal picado (“poked penalty kick”).
The goal of the tactic is not to chip the ball over the goalkeeper, but rather to take advantage of the fact that many goalkeepers will dive to either side of the goal in anticipation of the ball rather than waiting to see which way it will go.
It’s a risky approach because the ball is slowed by the goalkeeper’s subtle touch, allowing them to move back from where they jumped or simply remain in the same location and wait for the ball to fall into their hands effortlessly.
Furthermore, the subtle touch is most easily utilized by a taker who slows down as he or she approaches the ball, allowing the goalie to see what the taker is planning. The move is only known to be utilized by confident penalty kickers who are willing to take a chance on missing the kick.
Some players who have used the Panenka kick have been chastised by the specialized media, as well as their teammates and fans, particularly if they miss it.
According to research, a Panenka has a lesser scoring probability than placement or power, but it is claimed that if successful, a Panenka’s psychological impact on the other side can be significant, which could explain why penalty takers choose to employ it. Panenka, on the other hand, perceived the penalty as a reflection of himself.
“I saw myself as an entertainer and I saw this penalty as a reflection of my personality. I wanted to give the fans something new to see, to create something that would get them talking.”—Antonin Panenka
Antonn Panenka rose to worldwide attention while representing Czechoslovakia in the 1976 European Championship; Czechoslovakia advanced to the final and faced West Germany. The score was 2–2 after extra time, resulting in the first penalty shootout in a European Championships final.
Until West Germany’s fourth penalty taker, Uli Hoeneß, ballooned his effort over the bar, the first seven penalties were converted. With the score at 4–3, Panenka went up to take the fifth Czechoslovak penalty, putting the game out of reach. He pretended to fire to the side of the net, leading West German goalkeeper Sepp Maier to dive to his left, before delicately chipping the ball into the net.
A observing French journalist dubbed Panenka “a poet” because of the shot’s apparent impudence, and his winning kick is one of the most renowned ever, making Panenka’s name synonymous with that particular form of penalty kick.
Panenka was advised after the game that if he missed, he could have been penalized because it would have been perceived as undermining the Communist government in existence in his home country at the time.  Pelé labeled Panenka as “either a genius or a lunatic” after seeing the penalty.
Panenka not only won the 1976 European Championship, but he also helped Czechoslovakia finish third in the 1980 tournament, scoring in a 9–8 penalty shootout victory.
Panenka scored two penalties at the 1982 World Cup finals, however these were the only Czechoslovakian goals, and the squad did not advance past the first group stage.
Many more players have since successfully executed the Panenka penalty in a variety of competitions. Only a few have appeared in important cup finals, including Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final,, Alexis Sánchez in the 2015 Copa América Final,, and Odsonne Édouard in the 2020 Scottish Cup final.
Outside of finals, Panenkas include Andrea Pirlo’s goal in Italy’s Euro 2012 quarter-final shootout against England, and Lionel Messi’s winner in a UEFA Champions League game for Paris Saint-Germain against RB Leipzig in 2021. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema faces Manchester City in a UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2022.
Not every penalty try is successful, as is the case with all penalty attempts. Brendon Santalab, a former Perth Glory player who scored many Panenka penalties over his career, played his final game as a professional in the 2019 A-League Grand Final.
The match between Sydney FC and Santalab’s Perth Glory culminated in a penalty shootout. Santalab took Perth’s third penalty with the score at 3-1 in favor of Sydney FC, trying a Panenka, but Sydney FC goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne was expecting it.
The goalkeeper rose to his feet and comfortably saved the errant kick. Sydney FC won the shootout and the A-League Championship 4 to 1 with their next penalty.
Gary Lineker, the former England captain, famously missed a Panenka penalty that would have tied him with Bobby Charlton for the team’s highest scorer at the time, instead putting him one goal behind on 48 for the remainder of his career.