The Penalty Curse: Reynald Pedros

It’s only 12 yards away. It’s eight yards wide and eight feet high. Your task is simple: to kick the ball past the goalkeeper, who fills just a fraction of the goal. Simple, right? It’s what you do every day in training. It’s what you’re paid thousands of pounds to do on a weekly basis. But in front of 60,000 viciously patriotic supporters whose hopes and dreams lay in your right boot? It’s not so easy.

This series looks at the players who fell foul of the dreaded penalty kick.

First up is the former French international Reynald Pedros.

Many stars have fallen to the dreaded penalty kick. Photo: Aquila via Flickr

In the run-up to the 1996 European Championships in England, the French national team were harbouring a playmaker that looked set to make his name as one of the brightest stars of European football. Though Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff were France’s midfield stars, and were to both leave their country for Serie A later that year, Reynald Pedros was beginning to establish himself in the same bracket.

First appearing for Nantes in 1986, part-Portuguese midfielder Pedros was part of the so-called “trio magique” at the club in the mid-1990’s, along with fellow attackers Nicolas Ouédec and Patrice Loko.

The ‘trio magique’ led Les Canaris to a league championship in the 1994-95 season, before reaching the semi-finals of the following season’s Champions League, only falling to eventual winners Juventus. In the run up to the 1996 tournament, everything had gone to plan for the long-locked Pedros and his team mates. Euro 96 was destined to be their tournament.

Though Ouédec didn’t make the final squad, Loko and Pedros eased into France’s final 22 for the trip across the English Channel, albeit as valued impact substitutes.

France eased through the group stage, defeating Romania before holding the Spanish to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road. Pedros made his debut at an international tournament in the final group game against Bulgaria replacing Zidane on the hour mark and helping Aime Jacquet’s side see out a 3-1 victory.

The Netherlands were waiting in the quarter-finals and after 120 minutes couldn’t separate the two teams, it was Clarence Seedorf’s penalty miss which gave France a place in the semi-finals against the Czech Republic.
The Czechs had edged out Italy in the group stages and seen off the highly-fancied Portugal in the last eight, and so were not to be underestimated.

Pedros again started on the bench, but was again introduced on the hour mark, in place of the more defensive-minded Sabri Lamouchi, in a bid to unlock the dogged Czechs. But Pedros, along with Djorkaeff and Zidane, could not get through. Like the quarter finals, it was down to penalty kicks.

He hadn’t taken one in that game, but this time Pedros was needed. After the first five penalty takers from each side found the net, it went down to sudden death and he was first up. His left-footed effort was weak, and easily saved by Petr Kouba. The Czech Republic scored their next, and France were heading home.

Hurt by a loss to perceived lesser opponents, the French press made Pedros a scapegoat, rather than pointing to their obvious lack of predatory strikers (Loko, Christophe Dugarry and Mickael Madar were the only forwards included in the squad). The man who was poised for a big European move, like Zidane or Djorkaeff, was now being shunned by the very same people who had built him up.

Indeed he did get his move. He first signed for French giants Marseille but played just 20 times before following his compatriots to Serie A. His time in Italy was not as successful as Zidane and Djorkaeff though. While Zidane spent five years at Juventus, making over 150 appearances and Djorkaeff averaged a goal every three games for Inter, Pedros appeared just four times for Parma and then three times for Napoli, before returning to France with Lyon for another unsuccessful period.

It seemed that just one kick of the football had effectively ended Pedros’ career. He attempted comebacks, first with Toulouse and then with Bastia, but by the age of 32, Pedros was washed up, beaten and left dreaming of what could have been. His career ended in the Swiss league with FC Baulmes in 2007.

His Euro 96 team mate and equal Zinedine Zidane signed for Real Madrid for a then-world record £48million and by 2004 had established himself as the greatest player of his era. Meanwhile Pedros was playing for tiny French side Sud Nivernais Imphy Decize. If it was Zidane who had missed that penalty against the Czech Republic, who knows where Reynald Pedros would be now?

2 Comments to “The Penalty Curse: Reynald Pedros”

  1. right-footed ? are you sure ?

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