England have a dire shootout record: Who should take their penalties?


Here’s a quiz question: What do the 2022 World Cup final, the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations final, the 2020 European Championship final and the 2016 Copa America final have in common?

Answer: They were all settled by a penalty shoot-out.

“There are so many things you can do to prepare your team for penalties, to train them for penalties, to help your players and team cope with the pressure of penalties,” says Geir Jordet, professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and author of the recently-published book, “Pressure: Lessons from the Psychology of the Penalty Shoot-out.”

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England have had so many penalty heartaches down the years – not least in the last Euro final when they lost 3-2 to Italy on penalties – with their 2-7 overall record the worst in the history of the tournament, while if you also include the World Cup, the Three Lions’ numbers are even worse, with two wins from nine.

Geir Jordet, professor at Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

“You can do this as an individual, as a team, as a manager,” he adds.

Just this year, France coach Didier Deschamps railed against an attempt by the French Football Federation to come up with an initiative to improve the team’s performance in shoot-outs. France lost in them in the last 16 at Euro 2020 and in the 2022 World Cup final against Argentina.

“I’m convinced – and my past as a player gives me this information – that it’s impossible to recreate a situation, on a psychological level, between training and a match,” Deschamps said.

Nini Madueke, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer were all involved in an argument over a Chelsea penalty against Everton
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Will Chelsea’s Cole Palmer take a penalty for England if their Euro 2024 quarter-final with Switzerland goes to a shoot-out?

Jordet acknowledged that, but said it is “absurd” to not try to simulate these pressure situations in training.

“There are studies showing that training with mild anxiety will prepare you and help you perform better under conditions of high anxiety,” he said, before looking at other professions and areas of work.

“If you look at military training – in peacetime, which is what we’re used to, should they train for war activities and the pressure and stress of being in a conflict, or should they just sit back and say we cannot simulate the pressure and the stress of being in an active firefight? That’s absurd. It’s the same case with pilots or if you look at surgeons or ER doctors.”

Argentina's Gonzalo Montiel score in a penalty shootout during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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Argentina’s Gonzalo Montiel scores the winning penalty in the 2022 World Cup final against France

Jordet has looked specifically at penalty shoot-outs at the last World Cup and how coaches managed the two minutes they had with their players between extra-time finishing and the shoot-out starting. He noted the winning teams “without exception” were those whose coaches took the shortest time giving their instructions.

In the final, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni’s nomination process took 15 seconds, Jordet said, because his team was prepared.

He added: “Deschamps spent almost 20 seconds considering who should take the shot for each of his penalty takers, looking around, showing basically how little clarity he had about what to do. It was probably something his players would pick up on as well.”

EUROS HISTORY

There have been 22 shoot-outs at the Euros, including four in 1996 and 2020. Of the 232 shots taken in the shoot-outs, 178 were successful – a 76.7 per cent success rate. That fits the data models which typically say the expected success of a penalty is 0.76 per cent (that is, 76 out of 100 penalties would typically be scored).

GO FIRST OR SECOND?

So much for the widely-held perception that the team going second in a shoot-out is at a disadvantage for being under extra pressure. The latest major study of penalties, covering men’s competitions in European football over the last 11 years, showed the winning percentage of the team shooting first in penalty kicks was 48.83 per cent. Jordet said the advantage has “progressively and dramatically shrunk” compared to older research, some of which said there was around a 60 per cent chance of the team going first winning.

TEAM ORDERS

France's Kylian MBAPPE reacts after scoring his second goal during the FIFA World Cup Final match at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on Dec. 18, 2022. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )
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France’s Kylian Mbappe was successful from the spot in his side’s loss to Argentina in the 2022 World Cup final

That same study showed the first kick is scored in shoot-outs more often than any other (nearly 84 per cent) and is typically delivered by the most reliable penalty taker. Messi and Kylian Mbappe took the first two kicks in the World Cup final shoot-out, for example.

The likelihood of success by a team’s second taker dips to as low as around 72 per cent, the study says, while the fifth kicker of the team shooting second has not gotten to take a penalty in 43.26 per cent of shoot-outs. Placing your best taker at No 5 in the list is dangerous, then – just ask Cristiano Ronaldo, who never got to take a penalty when Portugal lost a shoot-out to Spain in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, and Mohamed Salah, who was left stranded as his Egypt team lost the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2021.

TACTICS

Watch out for gamesmanship around shoot-outs or regular penalties. Opponents have been seen attempting to scuff the turf around the spot in the hope of causing the taker to slip. That has led on some occasions to players from the team awarded the penalty gathering around the spot to protect the turf. Another recent phenomenon is one player holding on to the ball near the spot when a penalty has been awarded and then passing it, at the last minute, to the team-mate taking the kick.

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 05:  Goalkeeper Tim Krul of the Netherlands celebrates with teammates after making a save in a penalty shootout to defeat Costa Ric
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Tim Krul was the Netherlands’ hero in their shoot-out win against Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup

“It’s about making the individual act of shooting a penalty into a collective team performance,” Jordet said. There also have been numerous examples of back-up goalkeepers or outfield players being brought on as a substitute late in extra-time because they have a better record in penalties than the regular starter. See Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul at the 2014 World Cup and Australia goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

NEW TECHNIQUE

England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal from a penalty kick during the Euro 2024 group C qualifying soccer match between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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England captain Harry Kane has a new penalty-taking technique

There is a new dominant penalty technique – and it is not for the faint-hearted. It involves the taker approaching the ball and waiting for the goalkeeper to make the first move. What invariably becomes a stutter-step routine has been called the “goalkeeper-dependent technique” by experts like Jordet. “It’s very sophisticated and hard to perform when the pressure’s truly on,” he said. “If you’re competent at executing this technique, this will effectively delete the risk factor of the goalkeeper going in the right direction and your odds suddenly going down.”

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski has been using it since 2016 – and used it against France in the group stage at Euro 2024 – and Harry Kane is a recent adopter.

PROVEN PEDIGREE

England's Jadon Sancho reacts after missing his shot at goal during a penalty shootout at the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, July 11, 2021.
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England’s Jadon Sancho missed from the spot in the Euro 2021 final loss to Italy at Wembley

History suggests Germany might be the best penalty-taking team in Europe, having won all six of their shoot-outs since losing the European Championship’s first to Czechoslovakia in the 1976 final. Conversely, there is England, who have had so many penalty heartaches down the years – not least in the last Euro final when they lost 3-2 to Italy on penalties – with their 2-7 overall record the worst in the history of the tournament, while if you also include the World Cup, the Three Lions’ numbers are even worse, with two wins from nine. Meanwhile, the Netherlands (2-6) have not fared much better.

Speaking of England, Gareth Southgate’s side take on Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 on Saturday afternoon in what looks on paper to be an evenly-contested clash that could very well go all the way to penalties in Dusseldorf.

If that is the case, then as mentioned previously, England have the worst penalty shoot-out record of any side still left in the tournament, which does not bode well for their chances of winning the Euros.

However, if the last-eight tie is decided by the dreaded spot-kicks at the ESPRIT Arena on Saturday, then let’s hope Southgate has heeded the above advice and prepared his players in advance.

And if, as is likely, the England manager has been practising in training this week, then it would also be a surprise were he and his coaching team not to know the statistics around who are the Three Lions’ most successful penalty takers.

If not, then a new study has revealed Cole Palmer has the best penalty record of any player in the England squad. Sports analytics platform Tips.gg examined the penalty records of the 13 England players at Euro 2024 who have taken a career penalty, excluding shoot-outs. The players were then ranked based on the highest to lowest conversion rates.

Cole Palmer scores his penalty for his first England goal
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Cole Palmer scores from the spot in England’s recent friendly win against Bosnia

Palmer has the best penalty record of any player in the squad. The 2023/24 Young Player of the Season enjoyed an impressive debut season at Chelsea, scoring nine goals from the spot. Palmer, who has a perfect conversion rate of 100 per cent from 14 penalties, last scored a penalty during England’s pre-tournament 3-0 friendly win against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rank

Player

Penalties Scored

Penalties Missed

Conversion Rate

1

Cole Palmer

14

0

100.00%

2

Conor Gallagher

5

0

100.00%

3

Trent Alexander-Arnold

4

0

100.00%

4

Jude Bellingham

3

0

100.00%

5

Ivan Toney

30

2

93.75%

6

Eberechi Eze

7

1

87.50%

7

Harry Kane

74

11

87.06%

8

Bukayo Saka

12

2

85.71%

8

Anthony Gordon

6

2

75.00%

10

Jarrod Bowen

6

3

66.67%

11

Ollie Watkins

4

5

44.44%

12

Declan Rice

1

2

33.33%

13

Kieran Tripper

0

2

0.00%

Meanwhile, Conor Gallagher has also been faultless from the spot so far in his career, converting each of his five penalties. Despite a 100 per cent success rate, his last match penalty came in the U18 Premier League back in January 2018.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jude Bellingham also boast a 100 per cent penalty conversion rate, scoring four and three penalties respectively. Like Gallagher, Alexander-Arnold’s penalty success has come in games at youth level, where he was prolific from the spot for England in the Euro U19 qualifiers back in 2016/17. Bellingham’s most recent penalty success came when scoring in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win against Almeria in January.

Ivan Toney rounds off the five England players with the best penalty conversion rate. The Brentford striker has been successful from the spot on 30 out of 32 occasions, with a conversion rate of 93.75 per cent. His last success was back in March in England’s 2-2 draw with Belgium.

Ivan Toney celebrates after equalising for England from the penalty spot
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Ivan Toney has an excellent penalty record with Brentford and England

Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze has a success rate of 87.50 per cent from eight penalties, while England captain and penalty-taker Kane – with his new aforementioned stuttering technique – has converted 87.06 per cent of his 85 spot-kicks.

And finally, Kieran Trippier has the worst penalty record of any player in the England squad. The Newcastle defender is yet to score from the spot after missing each of his two attempts at former clubs Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.



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