Football’s lottery: The Golden Goal rule 


Teun Koopmeiners (C) of AZ Alkmaar celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal (Getty Images)

How do you conclude a competitive fixture when both teams are on equal footing after regulation time? Football has the away goals if its two-legged affair. And if they are still at parity, or it is single leg competition, the match drags on into extra time. If nothing separates them at the culmination of extra time, you get to a penalty shootout. 

A lot of games end in the lottery of a penalty shootout if the two sides cannot be separated after 90 minutes. The deadlock remains as one side or the other prefers to take their chances on penalties rather than risk getting scored at. It is understandable, players are fatigued and you have to hold your shape rather than expend a lot of energy. 

This was not always the case. Football’s governing bodies borrowed from hockey and lacrosse, introducing the Golden Goal rule. And it was a simple rule that kept the game interesting throughout its duration. After the regulation period ended, the golden goal rule came into effect in extra time. The team who scores first wins.  Whilst the ruling is a rarity, William Hill offers a special golden goal promo – .

It is not a new phenomenon but one that dates back to 1860s. English cup games were decided on the golden goal and this sudden death tiebreaker is a commonplace on the playground. It keeps the match interesting and you never know what can happen. Its adoption on the international level has seen many a match have unexpected results. Teams like to push forward and punish the opposition on the break. The game remains open. 

In its heyday, you did not have to wait for a penalty shootout for an adrenaline rush, the Golden Goal rule made the Extra Time worth every second. You were glued to the edge of your seat and breaks were not possible.

But not every team thought like that. And the possibility of a golden goal impacted how matches were played in normal time. Conserve your energy, hit on the counter or take your chances in extra time. Regulation time became dull and a lot of games were dour as a result. Make no mistake, these international fixtures were cagey and technical affairs, but not a lot was offered to the spectator. 

After a lot of consideration, the rule was scrapped from all competitions. It was better to have one lottery than two. Golden goals were struck off and sides only had the penalty shootout as a lucky escape.  

France’s success

However, there is a crazy conspiracy theory that because of France. The French national team was winning too many international tournaments and were counting their blessing thanks to the golden goal rule. We are not saying they won ‘unfairly’, just that three crunch games were resolved in their favor through the use of this rule. 

Les Bleus overcame the odds and beat dark horses on their way to international glory at both the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 European Championships.

France were facing a resilient of 1998 World Cup. The South Americans did not give an inch to their much-fancied European rivals and the score was at a deadlock after 90 minutes. Without their talisman, Zinedine Zidane, France were looking at an unlikely end on penalties. Laurent Blanc did not allow that to pass. The defender hit the back of the net with 6 minutes remaining to finish the tie in their favor. The game would mark the first time golden goal would conclude a game. 

While France did not have to rely on the Golden Goal again in 1998 World Cup, the rule would come to their aid in lifting the 2000 European Championships. After stalemates in the semi-final and finals after regulation time, France would come out victorious thanks to Zinedine Zidane and David Trezeguet’s respective strikes.

No other team profited more from this ruling than the French. And when it was taken out of action, Les Blues found themselves crashing out of 2002 World Cup in group stages. Not that there was a correlation between the two events. It is just an observation.