Greece's goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis looks round after Costa Rica's defender Michael Umana scored the winning penalty during a penalty shoot-out after extra time in the Round of 16 match. (ARIS MESSINIS / AFP/Getty Images / June 30, 2014)

Perhaps no other moment in sports can be as exalting and rewarding, deflating and punishing, and outright frustrating as the World Cup's penalty kick shootout.

"There are extremely few people who think that's a good way to settle a game," soccer historian Roger Allaway said. "But nobody has come up with a better one."

So here we are again. In the six knockout-round games played, two have been decided by penalty kicks.

Brazilians rejoiced and goalkeeper Julio Cesar became a national hero when his spectacular saves helped beat Chile in a shootout. Costa Rica is still reveling in its best World Cup outing in history after defeating Greece in the same scenario.

But count most of the rest of the world as disenchanted.

At this stage of the World Cup, in which the United States faces Belgium on Tuesday, teams that have played to a draw after 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime alternate taking a total of five shots by different players from 12 yards away from the goal.

If teams remain tied after five shots each, they alternate until one team scores and the other misses.

It's certainly a decisive way to determine a winner, so why is this method so unpopular?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter once called shootouts a "tragedy." Former French player Christian Karembeu likened them to Russian roulette. A recent New York Times commentary called them "ludicrous" — although it went on to call them "compellingly ludicrous."

"It's really easy to look at them to say it's a toss-up and a lottery," said Alexi Lalas, an ESPN analyst who played on the 1994 U.S. World Cup team. "I guess to a certain extent it is when you look at it like a completely different game being played that on the surface has no relation to the 90 or 120 minutes you just played."

"Is if fair? No," Fire goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde said. "Probably not if you lose, you say. If you win, you're happy, you're relieved and you move on."

Before FIFA implemented the shootout in 1978, teams replayed tied games. That's not practical in today's age of mass media.

Since the first shootout that delivered West Germany to victory against France in the 1982 World Cup semifinals, soccer aficionados have offered and argued for better solutions.

One alternative is naming a winner of a tied game based on an assessment of shot attempts, corner kicks and cautions during regulation. Other ideas include reducing the number of players on the field in extra time, expanding the size of the goal, shrinking the size of the field or allowing a one-on-one between goalie and shooter where the shooter can dribble and shoot from any spot.

Although he said it's not feasible, Lalas would like the game to continue indefinitely until a winner is decided.

"I do believe fitness, whether it's mental or physical, is important," he said. "I'd love to see a situation where you just keep playing. If people start dropping, that's fine. Then you're rewarded for your mental and physical strength to be able to continue. But that's not going to happen."

A popular option is sudden death — or the golden goal — similar to how overtime games are decided in the NHL. The rule was implemented in Euro league soccer in the 1990s before being abandoned as teams still largely opted to play defense and take their chances of scoring on penalty kicks.

Fire coach Frank Yallop won an MLS championship in 2001 with the San Jose Earthquakes thanks to that method.

"I won a championship on a golden goal," he said. "I didn't mind at the time."

But for all the consternation surrounding penalty kick shootouts, Lalas argues they should remain intact in World Cup play.