At Euro ‘96, France midfielder Reynald Pedros missed a penalty. It was a moment that would completely alter the trajectory of his career. He had progressed through the ranks at FC Nantes and made it into the national team. Following his penalty miss however, he would wear the French shirt on only a few more occasions and begin a spectacularly nomadic and unsuccessful club career. French fans held Pedros accountable for their exit from the tournament and turned their backs on him as though he’d committed a horrible crime.
Gareth Southgate is another player who missed a defining penalty at Euro ‘96. Like Pedros, he struck a tame kick that was easily saved by the goalkeeper before the next kick saw his team eliminated. Southgate would go onto star in a TV advert mocking (Celebrating?) his miss. Pedros would be made a pariah!
Whilst Pedros has been hidden in the shadows of French football, Gareth Southgate maintained a significant top flight career and is now coach of his national team. Pedros has forever been unable to rid himself of the stigma of his miss. French people shamefully ashamed of him. In contrast, Southgate is held up as an example of a thoroughly decent bloke let alone one who has any football related qualities.
Pedros was an exciting midfielder, therefore a player expected to be able to convert a spot kick though admittedly one who was only on the periphery of the playing XI. Southgate was a steady away defender, a reluctant penalty taker, one who volunteered to take the long walk as more attack-minded players remained in the centre-circle. Who should be more ashamed? The player that missed or the player that couldn’t.., because he didn’t step up? Maybe the four French outfield players who didn’t step up against Czech Republic remain grateful to this day that poor Pedros did instead!
Still, after that penalty miss Barcelona came calling for Pedros. Unfortunately Mrs Pedros didn’t want to relocate… so Mr Pedros didn’t. The married couple later divorced. Sliding doors forever opened and closed but all too often closed at the wrong time for Pedros.
Southgate’s career wasn’t (Isn’t) perfect. He didn’t win every cup final that he got too but he did get there, went on European adventures, got promoted, played again for his country numerous times and coached his national team to a World Cup semi-final.
Roberto Baggio missed a penalty but is forgiven. Stuart Pearce missed a penalty but didn’t shy away the next time the opportunity came around. Gareth Southgate missed a penalty but found redemption. Reynald Pedros missed a penalty but is either forgotten… or worse!