What is a Golden Goal?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The golden goal refers to a goal scored by a soccer team during overtime. The overtime minutes in a tied soccer game are similar to “sudden death.” The game ends in overtime with the first score, and the team that makes the point has made the golden goal.

Germany won the 1996 European Championship with a golden goal.
Germany won the 1996 European Championship with a golden goal.

This term was first used in 1992 to replace the more negative term “sudden death.” However, this way of breaking a tie is no longer used by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which is the major governing body for professional soccer games. FIFA used the golden goal method for about ten years.

FIFA only used the golden goal in international competition for about 10 years.
FIFA only used the golden goal in international competition for about 10 years.

Many feel the golden goal rule was not successful because teams would often play conservatively and defensively. If a game-ending goal was not scored during overtime, then teams settled a tie by penalty kicks. This was preferred by many players, and often both teams wished to see a tied game settled in this manner.

Those who had established the idea of sudden death thought that the renamed golden goal would produce dramatic action in games that went into overtime. Instead it tended to produce far less dramatic action because of the conservative way in which the teams played.

There are a few exceptions. Some European Football Championships had a winning outcome determined using this method. In 1996 Germany beat the Czech Republic using a golden goal. As well, in 2000, France beat Italy with one to decide the European Football Championship.

However, as a result of dissatisfaction with this tie-breaking method the silver goal tie-breaking method was introduced. In this overtime strategy, teams are given an extra 15-minute period, and the team scoring the most at the end of that period would win the match. This method was also discarded after a few years.

Now neither golden goal nor silver goal method decides ties. Instead teams have two 15-minute halves after a tied game ends at the 90-minute mark. The team with the most points at the end of the two halves wins the games. Penalty shots decide a game that remains tied after the two halves have been played.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@geekish - I played soccer as well, but I have got to say I loved the golden goal rule. After playing 90 minutes of soccer, I was ready for the game to be over!

But most importantly, if two teams are tied after 90 minutes either team deserves to win, whether it is off of a lucky goal as their golden goal in overtime or not!


I find it interesting that many people stated that they liked golden goal soccer for overtime play.

I played soccer and hated it! No matter if I won or lost. I agree that, of course, golden goal soccer in overtime is exciting. But I feel as a player that it always felt that we had played far too much soccer, and played far too hard, to have the game decided by a goal without a chance to score one as well!

I wonder if soccer players' opinions versus soccer spectators' opinions on this matter differ...


I am going to age myself here. When I played soccer in college, we played by the golden goal rule.

I was just watching some women's world cup soccer ball and was very thankful when Brazil scored against the United States in overtime to see the game had not ended!

This is when I found out gold goal soccer had ended and now it was two fifteen minute periods as the article stated. The game I was watching ended with penalty kicks because the United States was able to tie it back up at the very end of the game.


I think all the tinkering with the game, going from the golden goal to the silver goal to the strange mixture that is in place today is a big mistake on the part of FIFA. It confuses fans, players, coaches and referees. If they want a rule to work they need to stick with it for long enough for players and teams to adapt and the rule to reach some kind of level of equilibrium. Changing it every decade just leads to confusion and the game is always having to adapt arbitrarily. FIFA usually runs really well but sometimes they are an obstacle to the game.


@SunnySkys - I agree with you completely. I loved the golden goal rule when it was in place and I think it lead to a lot of really exciting soccer games.

I can understand the critics. The rule wasn't perfect. But sports are in a constant state of evolution and I think they could have stuck with the golden goal rule, or some variation, and still had players play aggressively during the regular


Maybe it will come back some day. FIFA is always tinkering with the rules and the golden goal was a real crowd pleaser. Hopefully one day we will see those exciting final second penalty shots once again.


@JaneAir - I disagree. I think the new method takes all the excitement out of the tie! In my opinion, the whole point of a tie breaker is to break the tie and add a little suspense to the game.


I think the new method sounds a lot better than the golden goal method of deciding a tie. Two 15 minute halves can show a lot more about who should really win than one team getting lucky and scoring a golden goal!


Penalty shots continue until someone comes out ahead. The first round consists of five shots by each side. If it's still tied after that, then each ensuing round consists of one shot per side.


What if the team scores equally in the penalties?

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