With the knock-out phase of Euro 2012 upon us, this is where the Miers-Beckenbauer solution to the penalty shoot-out conundrum comes into its own.
You may recall that the idea entails carrying forward points from the group stages of a football tournament so that we know in advance of the knockout match who will go through in the event of a draw – the most deserving team based on previous performance. So, except in rare circumstances, there is no need for penalties, though extra time could still be played. Merit rules instead of luck.
Furthermore, the temptation for weaker teams to ‘play for penalties’ is removed. Instead they must attack and go for the win. The stronger team is caught in two minds: Play for a draw and risk defeat? Or assert your superiority and carry forward another three notional points to the next round?
In other words, the knockout games take on the character of the last game of the group phase, where supposedly weaker teams attack desperately in search of that crucial win that will ensure qualification for the next round.
Look at what’s already happened in Euro 2012. Last night the Czechs basically played for a draw against the superior Portuguese, and the game suffered as a spectacle. Under Miers-Beckenbauer, each would have carried forward 6 points from the group stage, but the Portuguese had superior goal difference, so would have gone through in the event of a draw. The Czechs would have had to attack much more, leading to a more open game rather like the thrilling Croatia-Spain game at the end of the group phase when the Croats desperately tried to beat their ‘superior’ opponents and nearly pulled off the shock of the tournament.
With Miers-Beckenbauer in place, this is how the remaining quarter finals would look:
The defensive Greeks (4 points) would be forced to attack and beat the expert counter-attacking Germans (9 points).
The French (4) would need to overcome Spain (7), promising a classic.
Italy (5) would need to beat England (7). Since England’s default style appears to be clinging on for a draw anyway this might not make much difference, but at least the Italians would need to be more ambitious.
I will report again later in the tournament.
Incidentally, why is ITV’s jingle for Euro 2012 based on the Russian composer Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, when the tournament is hosted by Poland and Ukraine? It’s a bit like if the coverage of the London Olympics played the opening bars of the Marseillaise at every advert break.
Sensing a typical bimbonic cock-up based on ignorance of Johnny foreigner, I was about to lay into ITV when I thought I’d better check my facts on Wikipedia, as all good journalists do.
It turns out that while the Prokofiev is to all intents and purposes Russian in most respects, he was in fact born in Sontsovka, in what is now the eastern Ukraine! To muddy the waters further, a modern name for Sontsovska is Krasne, and there are several other Krasne’s in western Ukraine and Poland.
Lucky or clever, ITV?