The once spectacularly loud roar of the crowd goes silent.

The five selected shooters from each team stride, silently, toward the appointed spot. One goalkeeper stands on the goal line, perhaps limbering up to get ready, knowing that the odds are against him/her.

The opposing goalkeeper preps to go into action soon, knowing the same thing.

At the same time, the opposing shooters have a common knowledge: One miss, and their team is in big trouble. Two misses and their team's, and their country's, World Cup is likely over.

After 120 minutes (likely more, because of stoppage time) of playing to a stalemate, teams' hopes ride on whether or not their shooters, with the pressure weighing heavily on their shoulders, can make good on their penalty kicks and if their goal keepers, with the pressure weighing heavily on his/her shoulders, can stop at least one.

If you love overtime sports drama, nothing can match the penalty kicks phase in the knockout rounds of a soccer World Cup.

I have seen some of the best players in the world shank shots in these situations.

Yes, "You can hear a pin drop," sounds trite, but it really does ring true when it comes to what had been a boisterous crowd as the penalty kicks phase approaches.

When the first Norway shooter connected and the first Australian shooter, a much heralded player, spectacularly shanked her try during the penalty kicks phase of the Norway-Australia round of 16 match at the 2019 Women's World Cup, both sides seemed to get a feeling of how this one was going to end.

And it did end exactly that way. With her team up 3-1 in the penalty kicks phase, Norway shooter number four uncorked the potential clinching try. The Australian keeper never moved as the ball headed for the net, seemingly knowing Norway was moving on and her team's Cup was over.

The ball settled into the back of the net, and the reaction from both sides was typical. The roar from some of the Norway fans was deafening. The silence on the Australian side was just as deafening.

I think the shootout in hockey, where a skater from one team races toward the opposing goalie then tries to maneuver the puck past the keeper for a goal, comes fairly close to matching the drama of World Cup penalty kicks, but I don't think it quite measures up.

Overtime in football, basketball and baseball, even in the playoffs, do not come close. With the overtime formats in those sports, there is nowhere near the sense of immediacy that comes with penalty kicks at a World Cup.

Shoot, a pro football playoff overtime can last the equivalent of a full 15-minute quarter. And the teams might STILL be tied after that. A basketball playoff overtime period lasts five minutes, so a team has some breathing room if the first few shots of overtime don't fall.

The suspense for the fans does build in baseball as the innings keep mounting and the deadlock is not broken. Unless, come the 15th, fans decide five hours of baseball is enough for a Wednesday night that has since turned into a Thursday morning.

Are there more penalty kicks phases in this particular Women's World Cup's future? I hope so.    

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.