As we enter the second half of the year that will feature two major international tournaments, that will feature extra-time, penalties and dramatic exits, it's time to reflect on a simpler time. 22 years ago today, David Trezeguet scored the golden goal to win France Euro 2000 and crown them kings of the continent, two years on from their first World Cup triumph.
From 1996 until 2002, every major tournament was blessed with the chaotic yet innovative golden goal rule. In a move to prevent stagnant and boring periods of extra-time, the governing bodies introduced the ‘first goal wins’ rule we see on school playgrounds. Critics warned of more stagnant extra-time periods but instead what we got was finality. Brutal, cold-hearted finality.
Trezeguet’s strike in Rotterdam is the most famous golden goal, deciding the entire tournament but France also needed one to get through their semi-final with Portugal. A Zinedine Zidane penalty in extra-time sent them to the final but this was an imperfect rule not given enough time to truly flourish.
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Four years earlier, Oliver Bierhoff came off the bench to equalise for Germany at Wembley, before bagging another tournament winning golden goal. The Czechs stood in disbelief as his winner went in off the post, before collapsing to their knees in the midst of a heartbreaking defeat.
That rule, in effect at Euro 96 for the first time, is what made Paul Gascoigne’s semi-final miss even more agonising. If he had got his toe to that low driven cross, England would have been in the final. They would have probably won the entire tournament. This rule was wasn’t perfect, but its sporting finality was meritable and made it worthwhile.
The silver goal rule at Euro 2004 didn’t have quite the same definitiveness and knowing a goal has certainly won a knockout game is a joyous moment. Clive Tyldesley didn’t hold back when he said “and Solskjaer has won it” in 1999, because it was the definitive winner. And there’s something quite special about that.
The issue the current extra-time format has is that game are still stale in those 30 minutes and the first goal usually decides the game anyway. So why not make it the official rule? At Euro 2020, four games were decided in extra-time and all four were won by the team that scored first. In fact, only one team scored in all four extra-time periods. Spain came out on top against Croatia in a 5-3 thriller after two extra-time goals but on the same day, Switzerland produced an epic comeback against France to knock them out on penalties. But after a 3-3 draw, extra-time was a somewhat forgettable goalless affair.
At the 2018 World Cup, it was more of the same story. Mario Mandzukic’s semi-final winner against England was the only decisive goal scored in extra-time, with the other four extra-time periods all going to penalties. In 2016, Eder effectively scored a golden goal in the final for Portugal, who also needed Quaresma to do the same for them against Croatia in the round of 16.
Mario Gotze in the 2014 World Cup final? An unofficial golden goal. That tournament produced seven extra-time periods and of the three games that didn’t go to penalties, the team that scored first in extra-time progressed. We are living in a golden goal world anyway, we just don’t know it.
In fact, the last time a men’s team conceded first in extra-time and went on to progress from the tie in a major tournament was Turkey against Croatia at Euro 2008. They famously conceded in the 119th minute, equalised in the 122nd, and then won the game on penalties.
That’s 14 years of golden goal-ism, without the official title. A goal conceded in extra-time is a sickening punch to the guts, so why not bring back the official rule - and let the chaotic shirt-off celebrations return once again.