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Being part of the Guinness World Records is a major feat. But would you want to hold such records that make you a laughing stock for the rest of your life? This is the case with Argentina’s Martin Palermo, the man infamously known for missing three penalties in a single match. He did this in the group stages of Copa America 1999 against Colombia and forever wrote his name in the books of football’s worst nightmares.


Martin Palermo was an exceptional striker. A Boca Junior legend, the Argentinian native played in both Spain and Argentina, scoring 249 goals in 592 games across a career spanning almost 19 years.


(Image Courtesy – cordigosport.com)


However, his most infamous moment came for his national team during the 1999 South American Championships.



Palermo was chosen over players like Gabriel Batistuta and Hernán Crespo who were rested by Marcelo Bielsa, the man managing the South American team at that time.

Argentina were part of the Group C against the likes of Ecuador, Colombia and Uruguay. In a group with at least three of the four teams fancying their chance of going deep into the tournament, getting off to a good start was always a prime requirement.


(Image Courtesy- zimbio.com)


La Albiceleste had a great start to the tournament, winning their first match 3-1 against Ecuador with Palermo netting a brace. With the other match between Uruguay and Colombia ending 0-1 with the latter on the winning side, the next match between the two winning sides had to be an instant classic. Whoever wins the match will likely finish as the group leader.



Three days later came the day Martin Palermo would write his name in the record books for a record no one would want credits for. 

The match between Argentina and Colombia started with the men in blue and white dominating possession for the first few minutes. The first substantial chance to score came for Argentina in the first 5 minutes. Colombian defender Alexander  Viveros flicked up a hand and punched the ball clear inside his own 18 yard box awarding the clearest of penalties for Argentina. 

Palermo grabbed the ball, ending any debate as to who would take the kick. Choosing power over precision, the Argentinian striker struck the ball, smacking the crossbar and diverting high into the crowd. His coach wasn’t impressed but with 85 minutes left, the match was still young and there will be plenty of opportunities. 



5 minutes later in the game, Colombia were awarded a penalty after Arley Betancourth was fouled by Argentina’s Nelson Vivas inside the 18 yard box. Ivan Cordoba easily slotted home the penalty after in goal German Burgos threw himself right as the ball entered the net at the opposite side.

Argentina dominated possession for the rest of the half but Colombia were able to maintain their lead. The score remained 1-0 at halftime. 

In the first few minutes of the second half Colombia’s Ricard was nudged by the Argentinian skipper Roberto Ayala inside the penalty area. The referee was perfectly placed to spot the infringement and awarded the third penalty of the match. This time Ricard was given the opportunity to double Colombia’s lead but he did the exact opposite. A poor effort by him saw Bergos easily palm the ball away giving La Albiceleste a ray of hope.

With 20 minutes left, not only Argentina were a goal down but a man down as well after Zanetti was sent off for putting his elbow into the face of Rubiel Quintana. 



15 minutes to play, a fourth penalty of the match was awarded, this time in favor of Argentina after Viveros again handled the ball inside his penalty area. A golden chance to level the score and Palermo looking for redemption, he grabbed the ball, again taking on the responsibility.

Taking a long run up and again choosing power over finesse, to everyone’s surprise, Palermo sailed the ball over the crossbar once again. Pulling up his shorts in frustration and pleading to Gods in heaven, Palermo couldn’t believe his luck. 


palermo 3 penalty miss
(Image Courtesy- semana.com )


Just a few minutes later, after Palermo missed his second penalty, Colombia’s substitute Edwin Congo slotted home a goal from close range doubling his side’s lead. 

Minutes from full time, another substitute Johnnier Montano made it 3-0 for Colombia after his 25 yards spectacular effort found the back of the net. It would be safe to say things went well for Colombia the whole match. 



To think that Martin Palermo’s night could go further south would be alluring. But there were further depths to the plumb. For a fifth time the referee pointed to the spot after Palermo tumbled to the ground by the faintest of contacts by Colombia’s Cordoba. To everyone’s surprise, after missing two consecutive penalties Martin Palermo was given a third opportunity to redeem himself.

He at least hit the target this time, but the shot was easily parried away by goalkeeper Miguel Calero making Palermo’s third miss from the penalty spot. This time instead of irritation, his demeanour simply mirrored a miserable acquiescence and acknowledgment of his fate.



The retaliation from the press and fans was severe as he held the record for most penalty misses in an international match. The next day, Palermo gave interviews about his exhibition, the loss, and Argentine yearnings for the rest of the competition. A man of true character, he promised to give his best efforts for the team in the future.



In the next game, he scored the second goal for Argentina in their 2-0 triumph over Uruguay that saw Argentina finish second in their group but were eliminated by the eventual champions Brazil in the quarter finals of the tournament.



Despite winning numerous titles with Boca Juniors, he did not represent his country for a decade. But this wasn’t the end for Martin Palermo.

In 2009, Diego Maradona recalled Palermo to his squad. He made his comeback with a 30 minute cameo in a defeat to Paraguay, then scored twice in a friendly against Ghana.


palermo 3 penalty miss
(Image Courtesy- Argentina/twitter)


Argentina had to beat Peru in their final qualifying game for World Cup 2010.  Dramatically, Peru equalised in the 90th minute. Argentina launched a last attack. The ball skidded and found its way to the 35 year old. This time, Martin Palermo made no mistake and prodded home, snatching a last-gasp victory against Peru

Redemption, at last!

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