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World Cup Word of the Day: Penalty shoot-out

This short football language podcast looks at the phrase ‘penalty shoot-out‘ which is a way of deciding a match. You can read the transcript for this post below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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The second semi-final between Argentina and Holland was a very different game to the one the night before when Germany blew away hosts Brazil. This time Argentina qualified for the final on a penalty shoot-out after a scoreless 120 minutes. Why not try our World Cup Word Quiz, too, to see how well you know your football language.

World Cup Phrase – Penalty shoot-out

In the knock-out stages of tournament football there has to be a winner from each game and so if a match finishes as a draw (e.g. 0-0 or 1-1) after 90 minutes then an extra 30 minutes needs to be played – this is known as extra time. If the teams are still level (or tied) at the end of this period of extra time then a penalty shoot-out is used to decide which team will win. At first, each side takes five penalties but if there is no winner after these five spot kicks then they keep taking penalties until a winner can be found and this part of the penalty shoot-out is known as sudden death.

  • Example: Argentina defeated Holland 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out in the second 2014 World Cup semi-final.
  • Brazil won the 1994 World Cup on a penalty shoot-out against Italy in California.



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  • When do you use the term sudden death? When a team goes ahead in the first 5 spot kicks or when after the teams are still tied first 5 rounds of penalty kicks and the game goes to sudden death penalties ? I saw this term used in these two different contexts but some websites only calls it sudden death the second example. Thanks for your answer

    • Hi Izan

      Good question!

      I think it usually refers to the second example that you mentioned – when the two teams are level after the first set of five penalties. This means that the next penalty for each team becomes ‘sudden death’ because if one player misses and the other one scores then there is a winner (and a loser!).

      Sometimes we might hear ‘sudden death’ used during the first five penalties if the scores are level after the first four penalties as the next two penalties might decide the result.

      Although not the same, we sometimes hear the phrase ‘next goal wins’ (especially in an informal match (or kickabout) with friends) because there is a sense of jeopardy – your team could be the winner or the loser in a moment.

      I hope that helps. I am going to add a new post on this term and add it to our glossary – Thanks 🙂


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