What happens if a quarter-final tie at the Qatar 2022 World Cup finishes level?
We take a look at how knockout ties are settled at the World Cup if the two teams can’t be separated after 90 minutes.
Two matches went to extra time and penalties in the World Cup 2022 last 16, and we may well see more of the same when the quarter-finals get underway on Friday. Throughout the knockout stages in Qatar, this is how clashes will be settled if they are level after normal time.
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How does extra time work?
Extra time is the first tiebreaker used if the two teams can’t be separated in a World Cup knockout match. Lasting for a total of 30 minutes, it consists of two 15-minute halves and is played in its entirety, regardless of any changes to the score. If a team is ahead at the end of extra time, it wins the game.
It hasn’t always been the case that extra time is played in full no matter what: at World Cups 1998 and 2002, FIFA experimented with the ‘golden goal’ rule. Under this system, the first team to score in extra time would automatically win the game. However, this typically led to negative, defensive football, as sides understandably focused on not conceding. By the 2006 World Cup in Germany, global football’s governing body had scrapped the ‘golden goal’.
Since Austria beat France in 1934 in the first World Cup match to go to extra time, a total of 67 knockout ties have required the additional half an hour at the tournament, including seven finals.
If the teams are still level after extra time, the match goes to a penalty shootout.
How does a penalty shootout work?
The penalty shootout was first used at a World Cup in West Germany and France’s semi-final matchup in 1982, and has now decided 32 knockout ties in the competition - among them the 1994 and 2006 finals. Most recently, spot-kicks this week saw Croatia and Morocco triumph over Japan and Spain, respectively, to book their places in the 2022 quarter-finals.
In a shootout, both teams get five penalties each, with kicks taken alternately by each side. The team that scores the most penalties wins. If one side establishes an unassailable lead before one or both of the teams has taken all of its five penalties, the shootout ends. If the sides remain level after five penalties each, they take additional rounds of single sudden-death spot-kicks until one scores and the other misses.
Only players who were on the pitch when extra time ended can take part; anyone who was substituted or sent off is ineligible. A different person must step up for each penalty, unless the shootout remains level after every available member of a team has taken a spot-kick. At that point, players begin taking a second penalty each.
This is yet to happen at a World Cup, though - and it’s never been close to happening. The longest shootouts witnessed so far at the tournament both finished 5-4, after each team had taken six penalties each: West Germany’s semi-final win over France in ‘82, and a Sweden victory over Bulgaria in the 1994 quarter-finals.
A total of 12 kicks isn’t all that many when compared with the longest penalty competitions witnessed across all football tournaments. According to FIFA, indeed, the highest-scoring shootout ever recorded anywhere in the men’s game saw 44 penalties taken, as Argentinos Juniors beat fellow Argentinian club Racing Club 20-19 in a 1988 clash.