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The penalty shootout – who will crack first

By Charlie Johns
When Russian striker Fyodor Smolov stepped up to take the first spot kick in the quarter-final shootout against Croatia, it was the fourth time in this World Cup that a match would be decided by sudden-death.
Before the semi-finals had even arrived in Russia 2018, four penalty shootouts in a tournament equalled a record set in the 1990, 2006 and 2014 editions of the World Cup.
And when Smolov had his penalty saved, it also helped dispel the myth that the team taking the first spot kick in the shootout has the advantage.
Penalty shootouts were introduced into the World Cup in 1978 and since then, there have been 30 over 10 tournaments. And in those 30 shootouts, the team taking the first kick has only won 50 per cent of the time.
Smolov missed, as did his teammate Mario Fernandes, and Russia lost to Croatia 4-3 on penalties.
Yet, because of a miss by Croatian Mateo Kovacic, the shootout still required both teams to take all five kicks. And going the distance has only happened in 11 of the 30 shootouts.

The multiple misses in the Croatia-Russia shootout were the norm rather than the exception.
In World Cup history, a shootout has only been decided by just a single miss on six occasions. The most decisive and telling of these was in the 2006 final between France and Italy.
French striker David Trezeguet missed his spot kick – his team’s second – but with every other player scoring, the result wasn’t sealed until Fabio Grosso stepped up on the 10th and final kick to win Italy the title.
The 2006 final was only the second decider to be settled by a shootout after 1994 when the Italians, on that occasion, were on the wrong end of the result to Brazil.
Of the finalists in Russia 2018, Croatia (2 from 2, both in this tournament) has a 100 per cent shootout record in the World Cup, while France (2 from 4) will be hoping, that if required, they will be able to improve their record.

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