The Golden Goal: A melodramatic addition to the rulebook that didn’t yield its desired effect (part two)

golden goal part two

Sure, there were many highs along its yore, but in this second part of a two-part series, we explore the depths of farcical mishappenings around the Golden Goal rule. As quickly as it rose, it fell. The confused haze of a ‘next goal wins’ scenario would run out of road soon enough. For every David Trezequet-esque goal that luxuriated great winks in football, there were downbeat pretences that imperilled the rule’s continuation.

Never was its tumble from top to bottom better seen in the Caribbean Cup, when the rule provided us with one of the most ridiculous, confusing and outright hilarious moments in football history.

Chaos washes up in the Caribbean

As Barbados and Grenada prepared to do battle in the final qualification match in a three-team group during the 1994 Caribbean Cup, the equation for either nation was child’s play. Although the former tenanted bottom of the table, a victory with a two-goal buffer would have been enough to overthrow the two other nations to enter the tournament proper.

Though a popular paradise destination for peace seekers, the Caribbean became anything but that when the match got underway. From the impulse to be different, organisers of the tournament implemented a rule stating that any group stage matches ending in a draw would result in the golden goal. To exasperate the potential for harlequinade, it was decided that they would be worth double. Clearly, the lawmakers didn’t think this one through, for it would be the thesis of a whirlwind of backlash.

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With seven minutes left of the match, Barbados were 2-1 up. Instead of searching for a third goal to ensure qualification, they exploited a loophole within the jumbled rulebook. In the 87th minute, Barbados defender Terry Sealey and goalkeeper Horace Stoute began to pass the ball back and forth before Sealey deliberately put the ball in his own goal to take the game into extra time.

With tournament officials already resigned to collecting their P45s, the last few minutes of normal time would serve to further compound the utter stupidity of the rule, as Barbados valiantly defended both goals while Grenada tried in vain to score at either end. In a fitting conclusion, Barbados would get the golden goal and advance at Granada’s expenditure – but by this point, the result seemed neither here nor there as newshounds around the world had a field day.

The Granada manager James Clarkson justifiably condemned what happened:

“I feel cheated. The person who came up with these rules must be a candidate for a madhouse. The game should never be played with so many players running around the field confused.

“Our players did not even know which direction to attack: our goal or their goal. I have never seen this happen before. In football, you are supposed to score against the opponents to win, not for them.”

For every high that the rule provided, such as that of Les Bleus’ rise to the pinnacle of world football at the turn of the millennium, there were lows like the chaos that washed up on Caribbean shores – in 1994, the golden goal had seen it all. Some loved it; others loathed it. From a comedic standpoint, it’s a shame a Champions League match was never decided by a golden goal. But that isn’t to say it didn’t venture into club football at all…

Golden goal meets club football

The first legacy-altering meeting between the golden goal and club football appeared in the 2000 UEFA Super Cup, when Galatasaray upset Real Madrid via a 2-1 winner in extra time thanks to Mário Jardel. It was a welcome underdog triumph at the start of the European season, and it wouldn’t be the rule’s last appearance in the campaign.

In a battle for the ages, against the setting of a UEFA Cup final in Dortmund, favourites Liverpool were taken to the wire by a resilient Alavés side, who had eliminated the likes of Inter and Kaiserslautern en route to the final. With the scores level at 3-3 in the 72nd minute, Robbie Fowler’s fourth provided The Reds with catharsis. At the time, it felt like the final act of a superb season close.

But a moment befitting of the game’s craziness followed as former Manchester United player Jordi Cruyff came back to haunt his old club’s bitter rivals, with an 88th-minute header that ensured the 48,000 fans at the Westfalenstadion would be treated to the carnage of sudden death. 

The cessation of the golden goal would come about due to a cautious approach becoming far too recurrent in later years. However, the blistering pace that set Dortmund alight in 2001 persisted throughout. While two goals, one from either side, were disallowed, a red card for Alavés brought the house down on their ambitions to capsize one last European giant.

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Unimaginable to their usual fortunes in the buildup to this point, Delfí Geli headed a Gary McAllister free-kick into his own net in the 117th minute, scoring a ‘golden’ own goal and ensuring the famous silver vase would be going back to Anfield.

2002 World Cup final

The final time a golden goal would decide a major international fixture was against the backdrop of the equally controversial 2002 World Cup. Covering old ground from part one, the rule would settle no fewer than three knockout fixtures across South Korea and Japan.

While Senegal would be both beneficiaries and victims of the rule – Henri Camera’s 104th-minute strike seeing off Sweden in the last-16, before the Africans fell in the quarter-finals against Turkey thanks to a goal from Ilhan- the tournament’s most notorious golden goal occurred in South Korea’s match against Italy.

From a raft of disallowed goals to penalties and questionable red cards, it was an underdog story in itself that Italy made it until the 88th minute still leading. But an equaliser from Seol Ki-Hyeon compounded Azzuri’s fear that officialdom would find a way to end their World Cup hopes. This was only further exacerbated when Paolo Maldini was outjumped by Ahn Jung-Hwan – a striker who plied his trade at Perugia – who headed beyond Gianluigi Buffon to celebrate with a sea of Daejeon euphoria.

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While the golden goal feast in Korea and Japan provided one of the stronger cases for the merits of the rule, it wasn’t enough to quieten the large swathes of the footballing community who felt that, in the main, it had failed to live up to its promise of increased melodrama. 

Many began to believe that the law was living on borrowed time, and it was assumed that the rule’s retirement would coincide with the return of the traditional extra-time format. Surprisingly, UEFA had other ideas, introducing a law so detested that it made its predecessor look like a rip-roaring success.

If gold is too much, is silver the answer?

Debuted in the Autumn of 2002, the silver goal was introduced to try to bring the best of both extra time and the golden goal into one flawless rule. The result, unfortunately for UEFA, only further supplemented the unanimous hatred towards the change.

An attempted compromise between the golden goal and extra-time rules, the latest addition to the jumbled rulebook stipulated that a goal scored in extra-time would not immediately win the match, but if it was scored in the first half of extra-time and the opposition didn’t equalise, then the match would end at the halfway point.

The hope was that it would increase urgency (not this all over again…), but also provide teams that conceded a chance to get themselves back into the game. It didn’t work, hence why you may be hearing about this rule for the first time just now. The conservatism was apparent more than ever, joined by a new lineup of other problems.

Whereas the previous rules, flawed as they were, were simple concepts that were easy to follow, the silver goal caused complete puzzlement with the scoring of a goal guaranteed to be followed by dissension in the stands about exactly what happens next. 

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The most iconic implementation of the silver goal ruling would make an appearance more likened to its golden bigger brother in the Euro 2004 semi-final between Greece and the Czech Republic. Whilst the deadlock between the two remained unbroken after 90 minutes, during extra time, Traianos Dellas lost his marker from a corner and headed past Petr Čech to send the unforgiving Greeks, the 80/1 outsiders, to the final.

Happening so late into the first half, the Czechs were given no time to bounce back and find an equaliser, so Dellas’ header became golden in everything but the name. It was also the last goal ever under the melodramatic rule change, as the IFAB announced that both the golden goal and silver goal rule would be removed from the laws of the game in favour of a return to the traditional extra-time format.

With that, the twists and turns of some of football’s most showreel-worthy moments turned to stone, forever consigned to the history books, unless gold or silver lines the sport ever again.

The golden goal was never a raving success or a ridiculed failure. While my dad still asks if it goes to sudden death after 90 minutes when our beloved Liverpool play in the cup, it shows there are many that have forgotten its flaws, instilling faith that it’s the best way to decide a game. Hey, the old man even suggested no extra time at all, just a straight-out shootout, no matter how long it lasts!

It may not be around today, but it will always be remembered, that’s for sure. For its legends, for its moments of melodrama, and for its slews of frustration. The golden goal rule: when school ground ‘next goal wins’ met officialdom.