England start penalty practice to avoid more shoot-out heartache in Qatar

Gareth Southgate says England have started practising penalties ahead of the winter World Cup.

Having beaten Colombia on spot-kicks in the 2018 tournament and won bronze at the following year’s Nations League finals with a shoot-out win against Switzerland, the Three Lions suffered all too familiar heartbreak last summer.

Southgate, who missed the key spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final shoot-out loss to Germany, oversaw England’s agonising defeat on penalties to Italy in the European Championship final at Wembley.

The former defender has repeatedly underlined his belief that penalty success is about skill rather than luck, which is why they have begun practising ahead of the World Cup kicking off in November.

Saka missed a sudden-death penalty that handed Italy the European Championship trophy last summer. Credit: AP

“We have gone into various details with the players of where we can improve upon to be world champions,” Southgate said.

“We didn’t have a chance to do that in such detail in the autumn as we had to get straight on to the focus of qualifying, so we felt this camp was a good time to start that. Penalties has been part of that.

“What is apparent, in terms of regular penalty takers for their club, we really only have Harry Kane, James Ward-Prowse.

“(Marcus) Rashford would have been, in terms of volume of penalties, the second highest in number, but Bruno Fernandes is their (Manchester United’s) normal penalty taker and, when we played Italy, their top five had taken more than 40 penalties in competitive matches. Kane is at that level and Marcus is next at 20.

Kane slotted a penalty against Switzerland last weekend for England. Credit: AP

“So we will have to view that differently than just accept they are going to get practice at their clubs and they will be able to come in and that is the challenge we have set with some individual work.

“We think that is the right thing to do and, yes, it feels maybe they would think it is a bit early to do that, but essentially, if you take matchdays out and the day after a match, you are probably talking about 20 training days between now and that situation happening in a knock-out stage.”

Southgate would not share specifics, saying: “That situation has been hard enough as it is without (telling) the rest of the world what we are doing.”

The England boss says the team are analysing everything they can in pursuit of progress ahead of Qatar.

“We have been consistently in the top five in the world for the last three or four years,” he said. “We want to go further, but there are people right on our tail. That is the way it is going to be.

“We have got to make sure we are on point with everything and open-minded enough to anything that might make us better.”