Is the man responsible for one of the most infamous penalty misses in the history of English football slowly turning a weakness into a strength? Gareth Southgate has now overseen two shoot-outs as the manager of England and won both of them.
After the first, against Colombia three years ago, the sight of Southgate with his fists clenched and letting out a cathartic scream was one of the images of England’s World Cup. Clearly, that night exorcised at least some of the demons.
Now though, it is Germany at Wembley at a European Championship all over again. Maybe it will not go down to penalties, but if it does and England triumph, Southgate will be able to enjoy his most symbolic victory.
It is something worth preparing for, then. England have practised penalties throughout his time in charge, as Southgate knows that this is no lottery. It is something you can practise and improve on. But of course, special attention is paid to penalties in a tournament year.
Who, then, should the first five takers be, if it comes to it? By looking back over their penalty records in senior football, including those taken in shoot-outs, The Independent has put together a list of five plus a couple of others to consider and some to avoid.
Career record: 46/53
International shoot-outs: 1/1
England’s undisputed first-choice penalty taker. Nobody else comes near Kane’s record from the spot, which has seen him score 46 of 53 penalties. It’s not perfect but that is about as close as you are going to come to sure thing, certainly among this squad.
Whether or not Kane is one of England’s best five takers isn’t up for debate, but where he comes in the order during the shoot-out itself might be. Kane was up first against Colombia three years ago and if starting with your usual penalty taker feels like common sense, that’s because it is.
Studies have shown that the most important penalties in a shoot-out are the first, fourth and – if you get there – the fifth. Leaving Kane until last would risk him not taking a kick at all, while there’s an outside chance that could happen on the fourth too. Keep it simple and get off to a good start.
Penalty record: 15/17
International shoot-outs: 1/1
Other than Kane, Rashford is the only player in the squad with a penalty record in double figures, scoring 15 of his 17 career spot-kicks. The Manchester United forward was second up against Colombia and converted easily enough, low and hard to David Ospina’s right-hand side.
That night in Moscow and the recent Europa League final are Rashford’s only experiences of a shoot-out at senior level but he has dealt with the pressure in each of them. In Gdansk, he was perhaps kept on the pitch despite a poor performance because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew he could trust him from 12 yards.
And though he has never struck a winning penalty in a shoot-out, his most famous spot-kick – away to Paris Saint-Germain during the 2018-19 Champions League campaign – was effectively just that, coming in the last minute of added-on time against the greatest goalkeeper of his generation, Gianluigi Buffon.
Career record: 2/4
International shoot-outs: 1/1
Unfortunately, this is where things start to become more difficult. If you think back to the Colombia game, Trippier put his hand up for England’s fourth penalty and took it brilliantly. Stepping up straight after Mateus Uribe had hit the woodwork, he found the top left-hand corner perfectly. England were level again and would soon take the upper hand.
It was a clutch moment, and the best penalty of the night, but since that night Trippier has taken two in normal play – one for Tottenham, one for Atletico Madrid – and both were saved. As against Colombia, he went to the goalkeeper’s right each time but did not find the same height or purchase.
Perhaps he prefers shoot-outs. Trippier was the only Atletico player to score in a 4-1 defeat on penalties to Real Madrid in the Supercopa final early last year. Again, he went to the goalkeeper’s right and the penalty was almost a carbon copy of that against Colombia. It is nearly unstoppable, so long as he gets it right.
Career record: 4/5
International shoot-outs: 0/0
Mount is the only one of The Independent’s five takers not to have previously stepped up for England, which is no surprise given that he has only won 18 caps and is still just 22-years-old. He is relatively experienced when it comes to shoot-outs, though, taking more penalties in them than Kane.
Granted, an FA Cup third round replay with Derby is hardly the knockout stages of the European Championship, but it is still just a ball, a goalkeeper and 12 yards. Mount scored in last season’s Super Cup shoot-out against Liverpool and converted a regular old penalty in a draw against Southampton this term.
There is one blemish on his record: a decisive miss against Tottenham in the EFL Cup this season, when he aimed well wide of Hugo Lloris’s post. That and the fact he has not taken one at international level before could mean Southgate looks elsewhere when selecting his first five, but Mount is nevertheless an option.
Career record: 1/1
International shoot-outs: 1/1
Crazy? Maybe, but Pickford scored when up as the fifth taker in the shoot-out against Switzerland and is being considered by Southgate once again. His spot-kick in Guimaraes was well-taken too, slammed hard to the right. Yann Sommer could not read it and went the wrong way.
In Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty, journalist Ben Lyttleton uses the example of goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt who felt goalkeepers have two advantages when taking penalties: they know how the mind of the goalkeeper they are facing works, and they are used to “switching on” and composing themselves in high-pressure moments.
Like Butt, Pickford spends time on the training ground taking penalties as well as facing them, and his team-mates are impressed. “He’s a very clean striker of the ball,” said Kalvin Phillips at the weekend. “It makes it a lot easier when you have a keeper who could probably score a free-kick as well as a penalty.”
Who else should be in the mix?
One thing you realise about penalty shoot-outs when digging down into the numbers is that shoot-outs come around very rarely, especially for those who have spent the majority of their careers playing for top six clubs.
Harry Maguire has the most experience of shoot-outs among the England squad, having participated in six at club level, scoring three and missing three. It’s not exactly a record that fills you with confidence.
Those misses are contained to the earlier part of his career, though, at Sheffield United and Hull. Maguire was up first and scored in the shoot-out against Switzerland, suggesting he would be among the candidates to take another should it come to it.
Jadon Sancho also scored in that shoot-out in Guimaraes, though his penalty was not quite as convincing as Maguire’s. Nevertheless, he has taken up spot-kick duties with Dortmund every so often this season and boasts a 100 per cent record, scoring three of three.
Both Maguire and Sancho are decent candidates to take one of the first five, and if not then they should go early during sudden death.
Whose record isn’t so good?
Raheem Sterling scored in the shoot-out against Switzerland and, of course, is responsible for all of England’s two goals in this tournament so far. Even so, his record from the penalty spot is not especially convincing.
Sterling has taken nine penalties during his career but missed four. Only one of those misses came in a shoot-out and he has delivered when it mattered in the recent past – scoring the winning kick in the 2019 League Cup final – but there are probably better options.
Jordan Henderson is the only England player to miss in a shoot-out under Southgate – when up third against Colombia – and has only converted one of the four that he has taken during his career.
His most recent miss in the pre-tournament friendly against Romania, when he pulled rank over Dominic Calvert-Lewin, did not go down well with his manager either. Though a senior figure in the squad, it may be wise to let someone else have a go.
It is worth remembering, though, that previous records from the spot are not everything. Jamie Vardy had scored 11 of 13 penalties in normal play back in 2018 and was on the pitch for the Colombia shoot-out, but saw the likes of Trippier and Eric Dier go ahead of him and score.
How players have fared in the past is one of many factors to consider in the psychology of the penalty shoot-out. Not that you need to tell Southgate that. His biggest achievement with England so far might be his insistence that penalties are nothing to fear. Practice and research pays off. Just don’t leave it all down to chance.
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