Football with trophy

What Were the Golden Goal & Silver Goal Rules in Football?

Both the Golden Goal and the Silver Goal feel like relics of football from a different era. The idea that a match could be decided by either rule now seems alien, with both the Golden Goal and Silver Goal seeing goals weighted very differently to how they are today. In this Golden Goal and Silver Goal guide, we will look at what both rules are, their history and examples of when they have been used.

What Are the Golden Goal Rules?

Golden goal

The Golden Goal was a rule that basically saw the next goal winning the game in extra-time. It may sound quite a lot like the rules you would have played on the playground in school, with the idea that one final goal would see the contest decided. The Golden Goal rule is only employed in extra-time, meaning it is not active during the initial 90 minute game.

The standard extra-time format of two 15 minute halves was still used, but instead of a goal seeing the game restarted from a kick-off, it would immediately end. The scorer of the goal in extra-time would help their team to automatically win the game, hence the name ‘Golden Goal’, with the team that conceded losing.

History of the Golden Goal

The Golden Goal format was first used in North American football leagues in the 1970s. It came into wider circulation in 1993 when FIFA began using it. The change to the term Golden Goal came as a response to ‘Sudden Death’ having more negative connotations. The concept of the Golden Goal was not compulsory in football and could be employed by competitions at their leisure.

1996 European Championship

The first major European competition to employ the Golden Goal was the 1996 European Championship, while the MLS Cup utilised the Golden Goal in the same year. The first World Cup to use the Golden Goal was in 1998. The first recorded Golden Goal came in March 1993 in a match between Australia and Uruguay in a quarter-final of the World Youth Championship. The first tournament to be decided by a Golden Goal came in the 1995 Football League Trophy. Paul Tait was the scorer as Birmingham City beat Carlisle United.

First Golden Goal at a World Cup

This was quickly followed by the 1996 European Championship as Germany beat the Czech Republic in the final through an Oliver Bierhoff effort. The first Golden Goal at a World Cup was scored by Laurent Blanc as France beat Paraguay in the Round of 16 at the 1998 edition of the tournament. One of the most infamous examples of a Golden Goal came in a qualification game for the 1994 Caribbean Cup. Barbados deliberately scored a late own goal against Grenada due to the fact that an odd tournament rule stipulated that Golden Goals counted for double what a standard goal was worth when calculating goal difference.

Barbados did qualify for the next round, but it was in quite unsavoury circumstances. The last use of the Golden Goal at a men’s World Cup came in the 2002. Turkey beat Senegal through a goal from Ilhan Mansiz in the quarter-finals. At the women’s World Cup, Nia Kunzer scored a 98th minute winner as Germany beat Sweden in the final to both secure the trophy and etch her name into the record books as the last scorer of a Golden Goal at a World Cup.

What Is the Silver Goal Rule?

Football field

The Silver Goal was introduced for the 2002/03 season by UEFA. The major difference between the Golden Goal and the Silver Goal was that the latter did not automatically end the game. If the Silver Goal rule was in effect, then it would dictate that if the scores were not level at the end of the first half of extra-time, then the game would end.

For example, if England and Germany were locked at 1-1 heading into extra-time before Germany stormed into a 3-2 lead at the end of the first half of extra-time, the game would end and Germany would be deemed the winners. If the game was level at half-time in extra-time, then the game would continue as normal. Tournaments and competitions could choose to either use the Golden Goal rule, the Silver Goal rule or neither.

History of the Silver Goal

The Silver Goal was born in 2001 following a meeting of 12 elite coaches. They decided that the Golden Goal had caused something of a crippling fear amongst players who were petrified of getting to extra-time, only to immediately lose the game due to a single goal. By 2003, it was decided by FIFA that the Golden Goal should be removed from the game. UEFA had already introduced a new rule, the Silver Goal, for the 2002/03 season.

First Usage of the Silver Goal

The first use of the Silver Goal came as Ajax qualified for the group-stages of the Champions League against GAK as Tomas Galasek netted in the 103rd minute. Galasek featured in the only other game where a Silver Goal was used to decide a game as Greece beat the Czech Republic in the semi-finals of Euro 2004.

When Were the Golden & Silver Goals Rules Abolished?

IFAB logoNeither the Golden nor Silver Goals were widely appreciated in their time. They were seen as failed experiments, with the lawmakers of the game adding what were perceived to be needless laws. The problems with the Golden Goal in particular was that it did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. The Golden Goal was meant to incentivise attacking play, with the goal scoring side then winning the game automatically.

In reality, the Golden Goal only resulted in teams and managers playing to ensure they did not lose the game. This resulted in more defensive tactics and changes that saw attacking play pushed to the wayside. The IFAB eventually announced that, as of 2004, both the Golden and Silver Goals would be removed from the laws of the game following Euro 2004.

Knockout football would then revert to the rules we see today. This means if a game that cannot end in a draw is level after 90 minutes, then two 15 minute halves or extra-time will be played. If the score is still level at the end of the extra 30 minutes, then a penalty shoot-out will be required to find the winner.

Is the Golden Goal Still Used Today?

The Golden Goal is now a defunct rule in most major football competitions, but it is still being used in certain countries. For example, NCAA soccer in the USA still use the rule, with the 1995, 1996 and 2002 iterations of the tournament seeing games decided by Golden Goals. The 2013 women’s tournament also saw Golden Goals utilised, alongside more recent goals in the men’s tournament in 2017 and 2020.