Futsal penalties are a goalkeeper’s nightmare. The kicker is 6 meters away from your goal, trying to kick a heavy ball past you into a small goal. For a lot of penalty takers, it’s a matter of smash and hope. For a lot of keepers, it’s a reminder to double check their dental insurance policy.
Besides that, a penalty shootout seems a cruel way to end a match.
We’ve often wondered if there’s a better way to do it, and now we’ve seen a way where we think there is.
There’s got to be a better way than this…
A new way to replace futsal penalty kicks
In a cup game between Inter Movistar B and Nantes Metropole – with the score tied at full time – they tried a different way to settle the match. And we love it.
The method they played was golden-goal rules (i.e. the team that scores the first goal wins the match), but with an important twist.
Starting with the standard 5 players on each team, with every minute that passed each team removed a player from the court. Unless there is a goal, this continues to 4 v 4, 3 v, 3 until it is finally at 2 v 2. At that point the teams shouldn’t be able to last long without a goal being scored.
Here it is in action (footage kindly provided by futsal legend Damon Shaw):
We absolutely love this idea.
Much better than a penalty shootout
The main thing that a penalty shootout has got going for it is the drama. The tension on each kick is palpable. But here you can argue that you’ve got great scope for drama and tension too.
Golden goal still has you on high-alert, but each second the clock ticks down you know you’re moving closer to another player being removed and that’s going to open the game up even more.
It’s a much less arbitrary way to settle a game than penalties. Why settle the game on a bunch of hit and-hope kicks, when you can settle it based on the all-round attacking and defensive skill (not to mention the fitness) of the players?
This way, you’re getting a frenzied final few minutes, which involve the coach as much as the players. There’s not much time for tactics-although a good coach would prepare their players for it beforehand. But the team make a key decision on which players are taken off, and in what order.
Theoretically, this should lead to each team’s two best players being left on the court to settle things at the end of the match. Surely that’s the best and most exciting way to finish things?
Practicalities of this method
At the end of normal time (or even extra time) there will be a short break, allowing players to get a rest. At the same time, the team can sort out the order in which they’re going to take any players off, and discuss any tactical plans.
The referee should toss a coin to allow teams to choose which end they will play towards, and to determine who will have the kick-off.
It’s really not necessary for the players to have to stare each other down as the referee tosses the coin…
The game would then restart with 5 players on each team. The game instantly ends if a goal is scored, but if not, a buzzer or whistle sounds every minute and a player from each team must immediately withdraw from the court without participating further in the action.
If the player that’s leaving the court is on the ball at the moment the whistle or buzzer sounds, they must be allowed a touch in order to make a pass to a teammate before they go. But they’re obviously not allowed multiple touches of the ball, or that’s cheating.
Some thought needs giving to whether substitutions should be allowed. In our view, substitutions are only going to confuse matters. The five players you start with should be the only ones who will play any part in the remaining game.
There is also the possibility that, with the stakes raised so much in this period, that players are more inclined to foul each other. You certainly do not want this spectacle descending into a stop-start fouling contest.
As we know, in futsal each team is allowed to commit no more than 5 fouls in any particular half- from then on, each foul is awarded as a penalty (although must be taken from further back than a straightforward penalty kick). Under normal rules, the foul count for the second half carries over into extra time. It would be logical for this to carry over into sudden death as well.
Rules about fouls would continue to apply normally. If a player is sent off, the team will be a player down for two minutes (which will all but lose the game for that team)
How would you approach it?
There could be several ways you might decide to play this.
Do you take it down to a 2 v 2 finale, or do you try to win it earlier than that?
You might take the view that, if it’s going to eventually go down to 2 v 2, you want to try to conserve players for it. That might mean that you don’t go all-out from the start, but as the numbers reduce then you gradually increase the intensity. The player that is due to come off next should always be the hardest working one for the previous minute.
On the other hand, if you think your opponent is taking the strategy to conserve energy, you might decide to attack early. One big effort from all players initially might be enough to win the game and avoid going right down to a 2 v 2 nail-biter!
Give it a try instead of the usual futsal penalty kicks
We like it. A lot.
It’s interesting, it’s varied, it’s miles better than penalties.
Give it a try for yourself next time a game needs settling on penalties and see what you think. Do you prefer it? Let us know in the comments below.
Video credit: Footage kindly provided by Damon Shaw.
Photo credit: Futsal penalty kick photo above used under creative commons, with full credit to: https://www.minot.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/806136/5-cons-wins-indoor-soccer-championship/