FIFA may abolish extra time at World Cup

By Brian Homewood

BERNE (Reuters) - FIFA may abolish extra time at the World Cup with drawn knockout matches going straight to penalties, the federation's president Sepp Blatter said Thursday.

"We plan to take the opportunity to look at the concept of extra time," said Blatter, whose remarks differed slightly from an interview he gave to the German magazine Focus last month when he said penalty shootouts could even be used after drawn group matches.

"Often we see teams set themselves up even more defensively in extra time, in an attempt to avoid conceding a goal at all costs.

"To prevent this, we could go directly to a penalty shootout at full time, or reintroduce the golden goal rule. We'll see what emerges from the committee meetings."

Blatter did not discuss penalty shootouts themselves, which many feel are a lottery and devalue the sport, leaving a lasting stigma on the player who misses the decisive kick.

FIFA has so far declined to consider alternatives to shootouts, such as using the corner count to decide drawn matches and reducing the number of players on the field in extra time to open up the game.


The golden goal rule, in which the first goal to be scored in extra time won the match, was used at the 1996 and 2000 European championships and the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Intended to encourage attacking play, it turned out to be counter-productive as the fear of conceding a decisive goal prompted teams to use blanket defense.

At Euro 2004, the silver goal was used in which, if a team was leading at end of the first period of extra time, they would win the game. Otherwise the match would continue until the end of the second period.

Since then, football has reverted to using the traditional extra-time system in all major international championships, although in South America's Copa Libertadores and Copa America, it is generally not played.

In those tournaments, the possibility of having to play only 90 minutes rather than 120 to get to penalties results in even more defensive tactics.

Blatter said he was not impressed with the opening games in South Africa where the first 16 matches produced only 25 goals and included six draws, two of them goalless.

"In the first few matches of the group stage in South Africa, we witnessed some teams that went out to avoid defeat, that were playing for a draw from the outset," he said.

"This is a topic that I would like to discuss at upcoming football and technical committee meetings. We have to try to find a way to encourage free-flowing football in tournaments like the World Cup, with teams playing to win."

(Editing by Alison Wildey