Argentina beat France in the World Cup final earlier today. The game was decided by a penalty shoot out after the score was tied at 3-3 after extra time. Five of the 15 games in the knockout round were decided by this method: Croatia v. Japan and Morocco v. Spain in the round of 16; Croatia v. Brazil and Argentina v. Netherlands in the quarter-finals, and the final. This was the most number of shoot outs in the knock out rounds in World Cup history.
I think the penalty shoot out is an unsatisfactory way of deciding games. I think this system does not adequately reflect the merits of the competing teams. Each of the five losing teams (Japan, Spain, Brazil, Netherlands, and France) may feel that they should not have lost. I wrote about this back in 2021 (revised slightly here) after Italy beat England on penalties in the European Cup, describing what I think might be a better system.
There are so many different football skills, such as dribbling, passing, heading, teamwork, tackling, shooting at goal, and goal tending. There may be more that football aficionados can list. The penalty shoot out only requires the last two and thus is not reflective of the game as a whole. A team can win on a shootout despite having been generally outplayed by their opponents during the regulation period.
I would much rather have tiebreakers consist of a short period of extra time but with each side’s numbers greatly reduced, say to seven (or five or even to three) plus the goal keeper. This would make the scoring of goals more likely but still require all the skills that football requires. I think a result produced by that method would be less likely to leave the players and fans of the losing side feel frustrated that they deserved to win but that it was bad luck that cost them. The opinions on the game that I read say that Italy in general played better, at least as measured in terms of time of possession and attempts at goal, and was probably the best team in the tournament but they could very easily have lost the tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker system that tennis uses seems to me to be one of the best methods. It consists of a single game with the service switching after every two serves, and a margin of just two points required to win. It is the same basic idea of scoring as regular tennis but simpler. It almost always results in a quick decision but still requires all the player’s tennis skills. The tennis equivalent of the football tiebreaker would be to have players just serve and count the number of aces to decide the game. That would be awful.
I freely offer this suggestion to FIFA, while acknowledging that I do not follow soccer closely and thus may be ignorant of flaws in my idea.