In the past, England’s penalty-takers seemed to treat a penalty shoot-out like it was an outlandish improbability not worth preparing for. Like they’d only be marginally more surprised if FIFA announced they’d decide the winner of the match with a wet t-short competition.
Under Roy Hodgson, England seem more disciplined across the board. It’s at least a couple of weeks since a squad member was spotted stumbling out of a nightclub and if John Terry keeps it in his pants for much longer, he could start preaching about the joys of monogamy. On the pitch, it has been reflected with more disciplined displays and Hodgson has moved to improve the Three Lions’ success at spot-kicks.
England’s success rate in penalty shoot-outs similar to Elizabeth Taylor’s success rate in marriage. They’ve amassed a less than stellar record of one victory and five defeats from their six competitive penalty shoot-outs. Anything you can do to improve that has to help. On the training ground, you can never fully recreate the pressure and abuse you get from opposition fans, but Roy’s approach is about as comprehensive as it’s possible to get.
The squad have practised penalties in each of their training sessions and from those exercises, Roy has apparently already identified his first five penalty takers. Although the list of names is about as reassuring as advice from Jimmy Carr’s accountant. According to The Times, the list comprises:
- Liverpool captain and regular penalty-waster, Steven Gerrard
- Ashley Cole (good penalty in the Champions League final, but 16 goals in about 500 games)
- Wayne Rooney (good, but there’s always concerns he’ll be thinking too much about his hair)
- Ashley Young (good penalty-taker in fairness)
- And finally, scorer of the occasional cracking goal, but infrequent penalty-taker, Glen Johnson
Even Joe Hart has said he’s happy to get in on the act and the said thing is, it’s probably worth taking him up on the offer. His penalty heroics for the England Under 21s against Sweden at the European Championships has got plenty of airtime in the last couple of days, but arguably more impressive was this thumping effort he took during Manchester City’s pre-season tour of the US of A:
Whether or not it makes a difference remains to be seen. The quarter-final with Italy looks likely to be tighter than skinny jeans on James Corden. Ensuring you’re not just going to trickle the ball at Gigi Buffon in a penalty shoot-out is clearly a good idea. England are 8/1 to win in a penalty shoot-out. For once that doesn’t sound as laughable as it once was.