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A Brief History of Extra-Time

Throughout football’s history, extra-time has brought with it some of the most dramatic and glorious passages of play. In cup matches, when teams are tied after 90 minutes, an extra 30 minute period is called to help decide the winner. For some, this provides an additional period to help establish their dominance, with others using the 30 to physcologically wear away at the opposition in order to gain an advantage before the dreaded penalty shootout. Many of the game's defining moments have appeared in extra-time and its history is far deeper than many would believe.

It comes as a relative surprise to see that extra-time is nothing new to football. Indeed, the 1875 FA Cup Final was the first major game to feature an additional 30 minutes as the Royal Engineers searched for a maiden cup triumph over the Old Etonians. Even this wasn’t the first example of its use, or potential use in football. The first season of the FA Cup saw a semi-final tie between eventual winners the Wanderers and Queen’s Park level at full time. Wanderer’s suggestion of an additional period was refused by the Scottish club who wanted a replay instead. Citing the astronomical costs of another trip down to London, Queen’s Park didn’t attend the replay and the Wanderers progressed to the final.

The first major competition to be won in extra-time came in 1877 as once more the Wanderer’s prevailed to win their fourth FA Cup in just six seasons. After ‘it was arranged to continue for half-an-hour, fifteen minutes each play’, William Lindsay made football history by scoring ‘under the tape’ in the 97th minute. Despite remaining in the game’s rules after the match, it comes as quite a surprise to see that only three finals (excluding replays) went to extra-time between 1877 and 1930. The 1886 final was the first to end the game as a draw after 90 minutes before a replay was arranged a week later. The draw was regarded as a ‘real boon to the association’ bringing a considerable amount of ‘grist to the mill’. It is unclear why extra-time wasn’t arranged but the Glasgow Herald writes that the association conferred in the pavilion after the game to end it after 90 minutes.

Extra-time would therefore only be rarely used if the replay was also drawn. Although offering supporters another chance to watch the final, attendance at grounds could drop dramatically for the replay. In 1901, the FA Cup Final between Tottenham and Sheffield saw over 110,000 fans cram into the Crystal Palace sports ground but just 20,000 returned for the replay in Bolton. In 1902, 1910, 1911 and 1912 similar trends could be seen. Three consecutive draws irritated many fans as negative football began to creep into the game. ‘Bored and made tired’ from what they saw from Barnsely and West Brom in 1912, spectators and journalists alike demanded a higher standard of football in the game’s showpiece event. The Sportsman agreed and called for the return of extra-time in the first match and asked why indeed it had been removed in the first place.

Following the end of the First World War, FA Cup Finals would indeed include extra-time from the first match. William Kirton would win the trophy for Aston Villa in the 110th minute in 1920. International football would follow suit with the 1920 Olympics featuring an additional 30 minutes to separate the Netherlands and Sweden after a 4-4 draw in Antwerp. The World Cup would also require extra-time from 1934. Italy defeated Czechoslovakia 2-1 with a 95th minute winner from Angelo Schiavio to delight the host nation. With extra-time now secure in its role in the laws of the game little would alter its use until the 1970s when penalty shootouts were introduced into the game.

In recent years it has been argued that the promise of a penalty shootout at the end of a dramatic 120 minutes of football is enough for many teams to resort to negative tactics and indeed ‘play for penalties’. The first World Cup to utilise the ‘lottery’ of the shootout was in 1974. Although not needed, the third-place play-off was to be decided by five spot kicks if no definitive result could be found after extra time. Two years later, the European Championships would be decided by an incredible chipped penalty by Czech forward Antonin Panenka in a shootout with Germany. Remarkably, all four games in the final Euro ‘76 tournament went to extra-time with 19 goals scored in total. Perhaps the lottery which it brought meant sides would often go all out for the win to avoid their use. 

The World Cup Final would require extra-time in 1978 to determine its winner as Argentina overcame the Dutch challenge and punished them to a successive final defeat. The World Cup would see its first shootout in 1982 when West Germany controversially beat France in Seville. By the end of the decade however, football had resorted to negative styles once more with Italia ‘90 being a distinctly dull tournament. Despite new rules being introduced to promote attacking football, the 1994 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy was drawn 0-0 after extra-time and penalties once more gave us the most diverse of emotions as pure ecstasy met utter heartbreak. FIFA’s new innovation ‘golden goal’ was sure to find the glory of extra-time once again.

Golden goal was theoretically a sudden death situation, similar to ‘overtime’ in other sports. The next goal wins. The 1994 Carribean Cup had been the first to trial its use with it then counting as ‘two goals’. Such a law caused its own controversy and thus meant it was later simplified in time for the 1996 European Championships when Oliver Bierhoff’s 95th minute goal ended the game and won the cup for Germany. 

Indeed in 2001, a meeting between 12 elite coaches decided that golden goal had meant players and officials were being ‘gripped by a fear factor’ and that the response of a team going behind in extra-time was ‘part of the excitement of the game’. After a World Cup littered with golden goals in 2002, FIFA decided to remove its use in 2003 following its use in both the Confederations Cup and Women’s World Cup. Nia Kunzer's late header against Sweden at the 2003 tournament gave the rule a fitting send-off. European football’s governing body had in the meantime introduced a new system dubbed ‘silver goal’ where the goal was only ‘golden’ if the side who scored was still leading after the first 15 minutes of extra-time. Confusing, clunky and useless, the new rule was abandoned after just a year and few examples of its actual use ever came into fruition.

Ever since, football has reverted back to its use of extra-time and later penalty shootouts. The future for football’s additional period is indeed uncertain however. The increase in competitions and the amount of games needed for squads to play over a season has led to calls for cup matches to go straight to penalties. Since 2018, the English League Cup has removed extra-time in all matches before the semi-finals much to the delight of managers around England. Even the FA Cup is beginning to remove replays after the fourth round with the modern game and its mega clubs constantly dictating the way in which the sport is played. For us at The Football History Boys, we hope the use of extra-time isn’t removed completely from the game. It is with dramatic and incredible 30 minute periods, like the recent Liverpool and Atletico match, that offer some of football’s greatest stories.


Nottinghamshire Guardian, 31 March 1877

Manchester Courier, 5 April 1886

Glasgow Herald, 5 April 1886

Sporting Life, 22 April 1912

The Sportsman, 22 April 1912

Robert O’Connor, ‘The Golden Goal: Remembering Football's Failed Attempt at Self-Improvement’, Vice, 28 October 2015

BBC, ‘Coaches oppose golden goal’, BBC Sport, 30 August 2001

©The Football History Boys, 2020

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