Over the years, cup tournaments have often required a tie-breaker system to determine the winner of a match when two teams fail to find a winner. To achieve this, FIFA has put many rules in place at different times. The MLS-style penalty shootouts of the late 90s is one, as is the Golden Goal rule. More recently, the traditional penalty shootout style is in use.
This article will focus on the Golden Goal rule and what it entails. We will also look at the history and significance of the rule to football and why it was removed.
What is the Golden Goal rule?
Watching football in the late 20th century was quite interesting thanks to various rules that made the game unpredictable and exciting. This is because of the rules of the game at the time, one of which was the Golden Goal rule.
In the early 1990s, FIFA trialled a rule that transformed how teams and managers approached knockout matches. The governing body decided that extra time for games was too boring, and teams needed the added incentive of a sudden death goal. As a result, the Golden Goal rule was born. The team that managed to score first in the extra time of a match would emerge as the winner. This rule was made to increase the excitement in the extra time and ensure attacking football.
The Golden Goal rule became a mainstay in a few major international tournaments afterwards, proving decisive in some of them. It made it so that teams did not have to play the entirety of the extra time as they could win immediately after they scored.
What happened to the Golden Goal rule?
The Golden Goal rule was first used in youth football in the early 1990s before it was adopted in major international tournaments in 1996. The rule determined the UEFA European Championship in 1996 as Oliver Bierhoff scored the winner. The goal came just five minutes into extra time in the final between Germany and the Czech Republic.
The Golden Goal rule was also used in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Laurent Blanc scored the first-ever Golden Goal in World Cup history in the Round of 16 to help France defeat Paraguay.
The rule remained in use in men’s football in Euro 2000 and Euro 2004 before being abolished. However, during its time of being used, the Golden Goal rule ensured that teams played the extra time of matches as a sudden death period.
Many football fans all over the world believed that the Golden Goal rule was not a success, and it only led to more confusion in the game. While the rule was in use, it existed simultaneously with the penalty shootout rule. As a result, if neither team managed to score in extra time, then the match would head to a shootout. This meant that several different rules overlapped, leading to a lack of cohesion.
Eventually, FIFA abolished the rule in 2004 in favour of the Silver Goal rule, another which was not accepted in the football world. Shortly afterwards, FIFA restored the regular extra time and penalty shootout rules.
Why was the Golden Goal rule abolished?
The Golden Goal rule was abolished completely in 2004 for two main reasons which will be discussed in this section.
It encouraged negative football
The Golden Goal rule was originally introduced to encourage teams to go out in search of a single goal to kill off the match. In actuality, however, the rule had the opposite effect on games. Teams tended to play very defensive football, rarely venturing into the opposition half of the pitch. This was because the teams were very wary of leaving themselves exposed at the back when they went in search of the Golden Goal.
Instead of managers encouraging their teams to move upfield and attack, they preferred for them to sit back and protect what they had. This was done with the hope of getting to penalties.
A good example of this negative style was seen in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal between Mexico and Canada. The Mexicans were defending champions and had pummelled Canada for the entirety of the match. Two minutes into extra time, however, they were caught out by a lucky break and Richard Hastings scored the Golden Goal to give them the win.
It relegated the importance of skill over luck
FIFA had hoped the incentive of winning a match at any point of the 30 minutes would encourage teams to go gung-ho in search of a goal. This meant that the governing body hoped teams could score a goal using any means possible. The goal could come from a lucky deflection or own goal, both of which do not necessarily show the quality of a team. For example, during the UEFA Cup final in 2001, Liverpool and Deportivo Alaves played out a 4-4 draw in normal time. Delfi Geli scored an unfortunate Golden own goal in extra time to give Liverpool the trophy.
The rule made it such that one such moment could define a prestigious tournament such as the UEFA Cup.
The rule failed to prevent penalty shootouts
One of the key reasons for its creation was to reduce the number of matches that went to penalties. In this regard, the rule can be regarded as having failed because teams specifically played for penalties, even when the rule was in place. Very few games were determined by the Golden Goal rule, with teams happy to allow their games to go to penalties.
You can find out more about penalty shootouts in this guide here.
Abolishing the Golden Goal rule in football was a welcome move. The rule had increasingly come under scrutiny for its unfairness and its impact on the tactics of teams. The rule’s sudden death format had been criticised for not reflecting the balance of play. It also reduced the likelihood of open, attacking football.
Whilst it may have been exciting for fans, it was not a fair way to decide the outcome of a match. Its removal has undoubtedly contributed to more exciting matches in modern football.
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