Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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A dramatic plan to make penalty kicks more iffy

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: July 1, 2014 - 4:47 PM

I’ve decided that the referees in this World Cup are easier to dupe than the gentlemen in too-small striped shirts who used to try to keep order in the TV matches at the Calhoun Towers for Verne Gagne’s AWA.

Get near that box they call the penalty area, take a flop that would embarrass a Duke basketball player, and wait for the doofus running the show to award a game-deciding penalty kick.

That’s what happened the other day when I was watching the late stages of Mexico vs. Netherlands in the World Cup’s Surly 16. The Dutchman dived, the penalty kick was awarded, and Mexico and its coach (my favorite character in this elongated competition) were kaput a couple of minutes later.

It was a different day, Sunday I’d guess, when Greece and Costa Rica put on a display of non-aggression that would have made Gandhi proud. Costa Rica had an excuse, since it was playing minus one player, but the Greeks … I didn’t even need the announcers to tell me they were pathetic.

(An aside here: The Costa Rican was expelled for drawing two yellow cards, which gets you tossed. This is the main reason I’m pleased there was no soccer to be played when I was a kid. Besides all the running and sweating, what I couldn’t have handled was being ordered to walk over and stand in front of some glorified hall monitor and have him wave a yellow card in my face.

I’m afraid I would have had to say the same thing as Zach LaVine on the occasion of being taken No. 13 in the NBA Draft, which probably would’ve changed the color of the card to scarlet.)

Eventually, and mercifully, the Greeks and the Costa Ricans wound up in a penalty-kick tie breaker. The goalie has less chance than a walleye against Ron Schara in this situation, since he’s guarding a net the size of Duluth and the guy is trying to throw a rock into Lake Superior.

OK, a mixed metaphor there, but who cares?

The shootout starts with a round of five, and keeps going until there’s a miss, which everyone hopes happens before they die of old age.

The Costa Ricans made the first four as easy as 10-inch putts, and it was up to Greece’s Theofanis Gekas, who has been through so many soccer battles that he looked as road weary as “The Hound’’ in Game of Thrones.

You could tell poor Theofanis would rather have been Greek’s financial minister, asking the European Union for another bailout, than being forced to take this penalty kick.

“Hey, turn on the soccer game,’’ I shouted to my bride in the next room. “This Greek is going to miss a penalty kick. You may never get to see this again.’’

To which she replied: “Leave me alone.’’

Well, she missed it, and so did Theofanis, managing the improbable feat of putting the ball where Costa Rica’s goalie could reach it, and dooming his country to defeat.

The Greeks deserved that, with their putrid effort while holding an advantage in bodies for dang near an hour, but still … penalty kicks, they are easier than layups in basketball.

Oh, wait a minute, I just thought about our guy Nikola Pekovic. We better recycle the 10-inch putt comparison.

Anyway, I watched Theofanis choke and was moved to send out a Tweet that was very graphic and insulting in nature, as to what label it brings to a player when he misses a penalty kick in the World Cup.

This led to @go4erhockey sending a response reading, “My idea for improving penalty kicks: Make the kicker take the shot blindfolded.’’

I relayed agreement with this idea, as did @thejoehansen, with a caveat: “Yeah, and spin him around a few times first.’’

Rather than the near certainty of penalty kicks, we turn shootouts into a hybrid version of Blind Man’s Bluff on an international stage?

Spectacular problem solving, @go4erhockey and @thejoehansen.

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