LOVE them or hate them, penalties remain the only way to settle a match.

Several alternatives have been tried to spice up extra-time but nothing has managed to replace the sheer drama generated by the shoot-out.

The ‘golden goal’ came close – as anybody who watched Gazza come within a stud’s length of sending England to the Euro 96 final will testify – but teams gradually erred on the side of defence and sat back out of fear of defeat.

Penalties are the definitive tie-breaker, providing everything a good drama needs – twists and turns, heroes and villains.

They are also the ultimate test of nerve under the most extreme pressure.

Teams have been defined by the shoot-out – Germany for their success rate and England at the opposite end of the scale.

They are excruciating for the teams and fans involved and even neutrals tend to get swept up in the moment – I seem to recall once getting nervous during a relatively non-descript shoot-out involving Huddersfield Town.

But they are also compulsive viewing.

We have seen two matches decided from 12 yards in the knock-out stages of the World Cup during the past few days and on each occasion the tension could have been cut by a knife.

It was palpable when Chile’s Gonzalo Jara thumped his spot-kick against a post to send Brazil through in Belo Horizonte.

The precision of Costa Rica’s penalty-taking against Greece was also a wonder to behold when the stakes were so high.

Moments like these make the shoot-out what it is – the only way to settle a match.