Germany is the most-feared team when it comes to penalty shoot-outs so it is no surprise that a German claims to be the father of this dramatic way to decide soccer matches.
Germany has an enviable record in penalty shoot-outs in major tournaments
The group stages are over and the top teams are contesting their destinies in the knock-out rounds. For some, once those whistles go, their Euro 2008 campaigns could last no longer than 120 minutes -- the longest regulation time can run. Some could hang around for a few minutes more, watching and waiting as the lottery of penalty kicks decides their fate.
Penalties bring with them both nerve-wracking dread and dramatic entertainment -- depending on the shoot-out's outcome or whether your team is involved. But regardless of the emotions they bring, one thing is certain. At the end, one team is going home.
Who could have conceived such a heart-breaking and callous way of deciding who takes the spoils?
Karl Wald, a 92-year-old hairdresser and former referee from Bavaria, says it was him who designed the shootout in 1970 after being frustrated with coin tosses.
However, Israeli Yosef Dagan disputes Wald's claim and says that he was the man to convince the ruling body FIFA of the shoot-out's merits when he presented the format in 1969.
"What a cheek...Where was he all those years," Dagan asked in a report which can be seen on the Jerusalem-based Infolive.tv website.
British Channel Four also credited Dagan, if that is the right word in this context, in a soccer documentary about England's bad track record -- especially against Germany -- in shoot-outs.
"If you are looking for someone to blame for England's misery here is the culprit," said the Channel Four story. "He has broken hearts, made grown men weep and has added high drama to the beautiful game."
German report accredits their own man
England won't be surprised that a German is responsible
But, in a report by Bavarian television broadcast on Thursday, Wald said he was the inventor, citing world soccer supremo Joseph Blatter.
"In 2001 he (Blatter) wanted to know who invented it. He phoned me," said Wald.
Regardless who was the true inventor, Wald and Dagan had the same in mind with their idea.
"It is the only way to have a winner on the pitch. Everything else is no solution," said Wald, calling the coin toss "unsportsmanlike."
In 1968, host Italy only advanced to the Euro final through the flip of a coin after a semi-final deadlock with the Soviet Union. They then beat Yugoslavia in a rematch.
Wald (illegally) tried out shootout scenarios in Bavarian lower league games in the late 1960s and had his vision approved for the first time in 1970 by the Bavarian soccer federation.
Prolific Czechs top Euro penalty charts
FIFA introduced the shoot-out later and it was first used at a big tournament at Euro 1976 when then Czechoslovakia beat Germany from the spot for the title after Uli Hoeness fired high into the Belgrade sky.
The Czechs have sunk all their 20 penalties at Euro events, while Germany has never lost again from the spot at Euro and World Cup tournaments.
When facing Germany in a shoot-out, prepare to see this
"Soccer is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win," former England forward Gary Lineker once said in frustration after Germany beat England on penalties in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996.
The Germans beat France in the first ever World Cup shootout in the 1982 semis and two World Cup finals have by now also been decided in this cruel fashion: Brazil beating Italy in 1994 and Italy defeating France in 2006.
Saudi Arabia has a 4-0 record in continental shootouts, the Ivory Coast beat Ghana 12-11 in the shootout of the 1992 African Nations Cup final while Switzerland failed to score at all from the spot at the 2006 World Cup, going out 3-0 to Ukraine.
As the knock-out stages get underway, penalties could take center stage again at Euro 2008.