The drama of Spain’s elimination by Russia on Sunday highlighted that this is the point in the tournament where one word becomes part of every conversation: penalties.
After all England have been through as a nation in the last three decades, it’s only natural we start to think about those defeats and wonder whether, once again, the curse will strike at the worst possible moment.
But while the general public talk about what happens if England become involved in a penalty shootout, I don’t believe for one minute that Gareth Southgate’s squad will be concerned about 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012.
(L-R) Peter Crouch, Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville all experience heartbreak in a shootout
They are young lads, naive in a good way and don’t have mental scarring. What happened to England teams in the past won’t bother them and I say that with confidence because I can assure you that was how it was for us in Germany 12 years ago.
Of course, a lot of the players in that group had been eliminated from Euro 2004 in a shootout to Portugal but nobody ever said, ‘What if this happens again?’ I know we ended up losing to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen but it had nothing to do with past experiences or being underprepared.
Sven Goran Eriksson had a system in place where he decided who would take penalties based on how they performed in drills in training and it got to the stage where we had worked out what the order would be before Sven had even told us.
Portuguese defender Nuno Valente celebrates during the shootout in the 2006 World Cup
We had some excellent penalty takers and, as we headed into the knockout stages, it looked very much like Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham would have the responsibility.
There were others, though, whose claims were just as strong. Owen Hargreaves was prolific in training, as was Ashley Cole. I also had decent claims but nobody could outperform Jamie Carragher, who was on fire. Everything he hit went in.
Circumstances, however, changed the situation before that shootout with Portugal. Michael got injured in the final group game against Sweden and was out injured; Becks was badly injured in the second half of the quarter-final, while Wayne ended up being sent off.
So that’s how Hargreaves ended up taking the second kick and Carra — who had barely taken one in his career — was on the fourth: none of us anticipated there would be problems but, sadly, it didn’t go the way we wanted. This, though, was not down to the weight of history.
Gareth Southgate knows better than anyone the pressure that comes with penalties
Gareth Southgate knows better than anyone the pressure that come with penalties and the fact England have been practising them since March shows how well prepared they will be, should they be required.
People say you can’t recreate the pressure in training that comes in a shootout but, honestly, that isn’t true. Repetition breeds confidence.
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