Andrea Pirlo on his legendary Panenka penalty against Joe Hart
'There was absolutely no showboating about it - that's not my style'
When Andrea Pirlo stepped up to take his penalty against Joe Hart in Euro 2012, Italy were up against it. The quarter-final in Kyiv had ended goalless, but England held a slender advantage early in the shootout.
Mario Balotelli had converted the Azzurri's first penalty of the night with little fuss, but Riccardo Montolivo had drilled his wide of the post. With Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney both converting for England, Pirlo was under huge pressure to score.
Well aware of this fact was Hart in the England goal, who did his utmost to unnerve the playmaker as he set the ball on the spot. Hart could be heard screaming at Pirlo while jumping around on his line and pointing to a corner of his goal as if to suggest where he should aim his penalty.
The psychology didn't work. Pirlo, looking completely unflustered, stepped forward and lofted a chip down the centre of the goal. Hart dived to his right and out of the way.
England crumbled after Pirlo's moment of composure
The pendulum swung: Ashley Young crashed England's next penalty against the crossbar, and when Ashley Cole saw his penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon, Italy suddenly had match point. Alessandro Diamanti made no mistake, securing the Azzurri's passage to the semi-finals, but the manner of Pirlo's penalty was the highlight of the night.
A Panenka in such high-pressure circumstances seemed a bold move to those watching, but as Pirlo explained in his autobiography, it was simply the most sensible thing for him to do in that precise moment.
Some had compared it to a similar penalty scored by Francesco Totti during a shootout against the Netherlands at Euro 2000. Totti had told teammates Luigi Di Biagio and Paolo Maldini that he would chip his penalty before making his walk to the penalty spot. For Pirlo, however, his effort was not premeditated.
Pirlo on why he chipped his penalty against Hart
"I made my decision right at the last second, when I saw Joe Hart, the England goalie, doing all sorts on his line," Pirlo writes in I Think Therefore I Play.
"As I began my run-up, I still hadn't decided what I was going to do. And then he moved and my mind was made up. It was all impromptu, not premeditated. The only way I could see of pushing my chances of scoring close to 100 per cent. There was absolutely no showboating about it - that's not my style.
"Many so-called experts perceived all manner of hidden meanings in that episode," he continues. "A secret desire for revenge; something I'd practised again and again on the training pitch between games...
"Nobody knew I was going to strike the ball like that, simply because I didn't know myself. I'm aware that this explanation will make some people unhappy and make others seem like liars, but the fact is the truth's a lot less romantic than how it may have looked.
"It was pure calculation that made me chip the ball. At that precise instant, it was the least dangerous thing to do. The safest and most productive option."
Pirlo's penalty was one of the moments of Euro 2012
Pirlo had been instrumental in Italy's World Cup victory in Germany in 2006, and again played a key role in his country reaching the final of Euro 2012. They were beaten convincingly in the final by Spain, but Pirlo's penalty was undoubtedly one of the moments of the tournament.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) June 24, 2019
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