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Group A Mathematics Could Make Euro Championship History

Arda Turan's last-gasp 2-1 winner for Turkey against Switzerland on Wednesday possibly paved the way for European Championship history -- a penalty shootout in the group stage.

French goalie Fabien Barthez fails to save the penalty-kick by Spain's David Villa (not pictured) during the 2nd round match of 2006 FIFA World Cup between Spain and France

The lottery of a penalty shoot-out may decide the fate of the Group A qualifiers

The Turks will face the Czech Republic in Geneva on Sunday, with both sides sitting on three points from their two Group A games. Not only that, they also have an equal number of goals scored (two) and goals conceded (three).

Thus the question arises, what happens if they draw? Who will join group winners Portugal in the next round?

Euro regulation 7.07 stipulates that the criteria used is, in this order: the head-to-head results, the goal difference in the head-to-head clashes (if more than two teams are equal), the number of goals in the head-to-head clashes (again, if more than two teams are equal), goal difference overall, and the number of goals scored overall.

If, at the end of all of that, the teams can still not be separated, then the coefficients of the qualifying competitions for the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Euro are taken into consideration.

The coefficient is determined by the number of points divided by the number of games played.

This would give the Czech Republic the advantage as they have a coefficient of 2.333, while Turkey has 1.958.

If teams have the same coefficient, then the fair play ranking would be applied and if they are still the same, lots would be drawn.

Penalty shoot-out could solve conundrum

Portugal's goalkeeper Ricardo is unable to stop a penalty kick for a goal by France's Zinedine Zidane (unseen) during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Portugal and France in the World Cup

Hit and miss: A whole campaign could hinge on one kick

However, there is also regulation 7.08, which states that if teams are equal on points and goals (scored and conceded) after the last game and are playing against each other, they would then compete in a penalty shootout, which would start immediately after the 90 minutes are up.

Thus, if Turkey and the Czechs draw in Geneva, the game would move straight into a penalty shootout, without extra time.

This would be the first time that this has happened at a major championship.

A group game in the 2001 African Youth Championships in Ethiopia between Cameroon and Egypt could have been decided on penalties after the continental association CAF ordered it to be replayed and ruled that a draw would not be accepted.

The two teams had earlier conspired to play their final group game to a draw as it would see both teams through, but after spectators invaded the field in disgust the game was abandoned.

The replay, however, did not have to go to penalties, as Egypt won 3-1.

A coin was once used -- but in this day and age?

Head of Vatican Numismatic office Pier Paolo Francini shows a special edition of the two-Euro coin issued on Dec. 6, to commemorate the XX World Youth Day which took place in Cologne

Heads you win, tails you lose

Before the 'invention' of the penalty shootout (there is some confusion about who came up with the idea, Israeli Yosef Dagan is credited by some, while others say that former referee Karl Wald came up with the concept), a toss of the coin was used to break a stalemate.

In 1968, Italy advanced to the final of the Euro competition on the flip of a coin after the semi-final game between the Soviet Union and the Italians ended goalless. Italy won the coin toss and played in the final, which they won in a replay, while Russia went on to lose the third place play off.

If Sunday's game goes to penalties, the Czech Republic will fancy their chances as they have a perfect 3-0 record in penalty shootouts at Euro.

In 1976, as Czechoslovakia, they won the tournament, beating Germany in a shootout, while four years later they beat Italy in the play-off game. In 1996 the Czech Republic beat France in the semi-finals on penalties.

Czechs prove to be penalty kings

German fans watch the quarter-final shoot out at the 2006 World Cup between Germany and Argentina

It's not only stressful for the players

Astonishingly, Czech players scored each and every one of the 20 penalties they took in the three shootouts.

Little wonder then, that Turkey would much prefer the "old" flip of the coin. After all, their first World Cup participation in 1954 was as a result of a toss of the coin.

They played Spain in the final qualification round and after losing in Spain, won at home and then, rather than play a third game, a toss of the coin decided which team would play at the finals in Switzerland. Turkey won.

But as that is not a possibility on Sunday, it seems likely that Turkish players will be practicing penalties in the next few days. Just in case history is to be made.

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