Today no more than a footnote in the history of football, the golden goal was at one time a key element in deciding some of the most important matches in the game.
Introduced by FIFA in 1993 (who curiously decided that the more commonly used ‘sudden death’ held negative connotations), it was associated almost solely with international football and debuted at the European Championships in 1996. The idea was simple. Whereas the original rules dictated that, if two teams were drawn in a knock-out match after the 90 minutes, extra-time would be played for 30 minutes (divided into two 15 minute segments) with a penalty shoot-out to follow if the deadlock had not been broken. Importantly, should one team score during extra-time, the opposition would still have the chance to equalise until the 30 minutes were up. The ‘golden goal rule’, on the other hand, stated that the first team to score during the 30 minutes of extra-time would immediately be declared the winner.
The first golden goal was rather a muted affair – ending the match between Australia and Uruguay in the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Youth Championships in 1993. However, the significance of the change was felt in Euro 1996, when Olivier Bierhoff clinched the final for Germany in the 95th minute against the Czech Republic. Ironically, the next European Championships, in 2000, would also be decided by a golden goal, with David Trezeguet taking the trophy for France against Italy, not that its impact was confined to the European Championships, as the first golden goal in the World Cup came in 1998 courtesy of France’s Laurent Blanc, taking France past Paraguay to the quarter-finals.
However, the rule change remained hugely unpopular with fans and players alike. Facing a deluge of complaints, UEFA responded by introducing the ‘silver goal’ rule in 2002, which stated that, after a goal was scored in extra-time, the opposition would have until the end of that 15 minute half to equalise or the match would be over. This proved equally unpopular and, in February 2004, the golden and silver goal rules were removed from the Laws of the Game, giving tournament organisers the option to revert back to the old system. This was duly reinstated for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, effectively condemning the rule to football’s dustbin.
Golden Goal Winner – Euro ’96 Final