FOR any England fan, the prospect of a penalty shoot-out always brings a sense of dread.
No you’re not dreaming.
Sports psychologist Michel Brinkschulte, of the German Sport University of Cologne, said: “People believe English players miss more penalties than they actually do.”
England players have scored nine in ten penalties given during European Championships and World Cup games, putting them ahead of Brazil and Spain.
But when it comes to shoot-outs, as long-suffering fans have always known, we have one of the worst rates – scoring only six in ten. But let’s focus on the positives.
Here, football pundit and former England striker Alan Shearer talks about the pressure of taking a spot-kick and the tactics he used.
It’s quite a turn-up for the books to hear a German say that we are actually quite good at pens.
Yes, they got the better of us in shootouts in ’90 in ’96 but this study shows England are not as bad from 12 yards as everybody makes out.
I was never too bothered taking penalties. You have to live with the pressure that comes with it.
I scored six of my seven in the Three Lions shirt, and all three in the shootouts I took part in.
For me, practice and homework were key to getting it right. I used to practise three or four times a week.
The day before a game I would take 30 to 40 to perfect where I was going to put it, goalkeepers would be fed up with me in the end.
If they didn’t want to stay behind I would get one of the young kids to go in goal and they could be out there for another 45 minutes.
And you’ve got to treat an opposition keeper like you would every defender you came up against.
Have I taken one against him before? If so, where did I put it? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
They will do the same, checking where you put your last five or ten penalties, so you have to do it too.
I get that it’s difficult to replicate the pressure of a shootout in training but the least you can do is prepare.
Despite scoring in three shootouts myself, against Spain and Germany in Euro ’96, and Argentina in ’98, we only beat Spain.
You’ve got to treat an opposition keeper like you would every defender you came up against.
The one I missed in normal play was when I hit the post against Poland in ’97, which ironically was one of my best-ever games for England.
And while I had a good reputation from 12 yards, I wasn’t perfect — missing one for Newcastle against Sunderland was one of the most disappointing moments in my career.
Even Matt Le Tissier, the best around during my day, missed one. If you take them regularly it’s inevitable you will — you’ve just got to hope it’s not a biggie.
And changing your mind before you shoot can be fatal. I knew where I was going to put it the night before and never changed.
I knew if I picked my spot then the goalkeeper wasn’t going to stop it, even if he went the right way.
We may have only won three shoot-outs from nine but we’re getting better at those as well. We’ve won our last two under Gareth Southgate.
However, mentally they can be very tough knowing that there is no going back if you miss and it can prove very, very costly.
One of the biggest problems you’ve got is that you’re asking four or five other guys to take one when they normally don’t.
In the last-16 World Cup match against Argentina in 1998 I had already scored. A few penalties down the line, David Batty stepped up.
I said: “If you’re in any doubt whatsoever, put your head down, smash it straight down the middle as hard as you can.”
He looked at me just before he set off to the penalty spot. He said: “Yes that’s what I’m going to do.” But Batty ended up putting it to the keeper’s right and it was saved.
I said to him afterwards: “What happened?” He said: “I don’t know, I just changed my mind.”
We didn’t know who was going to take them in that game until the moment it went to penalties, as we didn’t know what the team would be after extra time.
So we sort of looked around and asked who was going to take them and hoped we would come through. Unfortunately it wasn’t our night.
But as England showed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia against Colombia, preparation was crucial.
Head coach Gareth Southgate had of course been involved when things didn’t go our way against Germany at Euro ’96.
So if his team was going to fail at penalties then it wasn’t going to be for the want of research. Gareth prepared thoroughly, got the psychologist in — something I can see being a big positive — and worked at it.
They got their rewards with a place in the quarter-finals — and don’t forget they also beat Switzerland in the Nations League last summer.
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