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Wednesday 24 September 2014

World Cup 2014: The 10 best penalty takers, including Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo and Yaya Toure

A look at the deadliest spot-kick takers taking part in Brazil

Marc Williams and Simon Rice

Published 04/06/2014 | 12:44

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Ever since the first shoot-out in a World Cup final in 1994, they dreaded spot-kicks have become synonymous with the tournament.

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For England they have invariably been disastrous, for others they have resulted in jubilation.

But on the World Cup journey to death or glory, it is inevitable that penalty kicks will play a part.

Whether a spot-kick splits a game that looks unlikely to divide two sides or a shoot-out at the end of 120 minutes is needed, the ability to score from 12 yards can't be underestimated.

But which players will be charged with scoring the vital penalties in Brazil? We take a look at some of deadliest players from the spot who will likely be stepping up at some point this summer.

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Mario Balotelli - Italy

Once hailed as the man who never missed, Balotelli’s 100 per cent record from the spot was lost last season when he missed twice for AC Milan. Even so, he remains one of the best penalty takers in the world at the moment. Technically perfect and with all the arrogance and nerve to slot home even the highest pressure of kicks. He had scored his first 26 in a row as a professional, never missing for Manchester City or Inter Milan. He scored the first in Italy’s shoot-out with England in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 and has fired in from the spot in World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup since.

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Steven Gerrard - England

Despite not always finding the mark in an England shirt, Gerrard has been deadly from the spot this season for Liverpool. He has scored ten spot kicks for the Reds this year, more than many other clubs combined, and will have great confidence should he be required to take one for England this summer. Gerrard has had mixed fortunes for England at major tournaments, scoring in the shootout against Italy at Euro 2012 but missing against Portugal at the 2006 World Cup. If the Liverpool captain doesn't feel up for it, he could always turn to his new club team-mate Rickie Lambert. After joining the Saints in 2009, the striker scored 34 penalties in a row, a record that few, if any, in world football can match.

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Yaya Toure - Ivory Coast

Yaya Toure has been something of a dead ball master this season. His free kicks have been well publicised and praised, and rightly so, but his conversation from the penalty spot has been equally superb. He scored all six penalties handed to him for Manchester City last season, each with power and placement and the Ivory Coast can count on him should it be needed. From 12 yards or 25, Toure always looks certain to find the back of the net from a set piece.

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Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal

Among CR7’s many, many talents is the ability to fire home a penalty as good as anyone out there. Along with his six successful spot kicks throughout Real Madrid’s season, Ronaldo also completed the scoring from 12 yards in their Champions League final victory over Atletico. He is, of course, no stranger to England fans when it comes to penalties either. He netted during the Euro 2004 quarter-final shootout between Portugal and the Three Lions and did so again two years later at the World Cup. Ronaldo needs no second invitation to get his name on the score sheet and a penalty kick is just bread and butter to him.

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Robin van Persie - Netherlands

RVP may have fallen behind Wayne Rooney in the pecking order of penalty takers at Manchester United but the Dutchman hasn’t lost any of his accuracy from the spot. During his Arsenal days, Van Persie smashed home spot-kicks for fun and has done the same for his country ever since. Of his eleven goals in qualifying, two came from the spot and he slotted in another brace in the league last season. He hasn’t missed one since November, his last wayward effort being against Real Sociedad in the Champions League group stage.

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Mesut Ozil - Germany

Truth be told, this could be virtually any German player really but Mesut Ozil seems to get the honour more times than his team-mates. He has missed a couple of high profile spot kicks for Arsenal this season but those will just spur him on to convert should it be needed in the World Cup. Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose would all have a good case to take a German penalty, among others of course, but Ozil has been their main man for several years now. He smashed in all three of Germany’s penalties during qualifying and will be the man with the responsibility in Brazil.

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Eden Hazard - Belgium

In Belgium’s star-studded line-up for this World Cup, Eden Hazard is their brightest. Among his considerable attributes is his ability from the penalty spot. Last season, he slotted in four in the Premier League, Belgium’s sole spot kick in qualifying and a vital away penalty against PSG in the Champions League quarter-final which helped set up victory in the return leg. Many have tipped Belgium as their outside vote for the World Cup title and should they need a penalty shootout to secure it along the way, Hazard is as sure as anyone from 12 yards.

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Franck Ribery - France

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery will be the man handed the honours if France need the ball smashing in from 12 yards. He notched one during the qualification campaign and is among those to share the duties at his club. Having felt hard done by to be overlooked for the Ballon d'Or in January, few players will be more determined to prove their ability than the Frenchman, and one or two from the spot wouldn't do his case any harm.

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Felipe Caicedo - Ecuador

Ecuador's best chance of making any real impact at this summer's World Cup may well boil down to a bit of luck and a few match winning penalty kicks here and there. If they are awarded a couple, then they have a pretty good man to make sure they take full advantage. Caicodo scored all four of his team's spot kicks during qualifying, along with several in domestic football, and will be hoping to etch his name into Ecuadorean football folk law with a goal from 12 yards at the showpiece tournament.

Independent News Service

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