Thanks for sharing. Worth also mentioning that Italy, for all their research missed two of theirs. So they were marginally less shitty than us, rather than being head & shoulders above us.some context from The Athletci about the penalty selections....
Ten key questions answered about England’s penalty shootout heartbreak at Euro 2020
By Oliver Kay, Jack Pitt-Brooke and more Jul 13, 2021120
So it happened again. England suffered penalties heartbreak at a major tournament, only this time it was in the final of Euro 2020 and the pain was so much greater.
In the fallout from Sunday’s 3-2 shootout defeat by Italy at Wembley, manager Gareth Southgate has been criticised for his choice of penalty takers, the order in which they took them, his decision to only introduce two of the five (both of whom missed) from the bench in the last seconds of extra time and much more besides.
The Athletic tries to answer the key questions the end of the European Championship final threw up, including why, after years of the FA researching penalties, the ending was all so familiar.
How did Southgate decide the order?
Southgate said after the game that he decided the order based on how players had performed on penalties in training, along with what they have done for their clubs. “That’s the process we followed in Russia (in beating Colombia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup) and Nations League (a shootout win over Switzerland in 2019) — but tonight it didn’t work,” he said.
Quite simply, Southgate believed the five players he picked — Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka — were “the best takers we had left on the pitch”.
England in the huddle before the penalty shootout (Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/Pool/ AFP)
What say did the players have in it?
None, according to both Southgate and Jack Grealish. “What they have to know is that none of them are on their own; we win and lose as a team, and the takers are my call,” Southgate said. “We’ve worked on them in training. My decision. Not down to the players.”
Aston Villa captain Grealish confirmed that in a tweet he sent responding to criticism of him by Roy Keane, part of ITV’s punditry team for the final, for not taking one ahead of the less-experienced teenager Saka. Grealish tweeted on Monday: “I said I wanted to take one!!!! The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”
Why didn’t Grealish get to take one?
Grealish and Southgate have a complicated relationship but it is understood the boss and his coaching team were aware that he would be willing to take a penalty if any of the knockout games went to a shootout.
The logical conclusion is that Grealish isn’t considered as good a penalty taker as Saka and the other four who took one by Southgate, based on the studies of his efforts in training, where assistant coach Steve Holland keeps a league table, and for his club.
Grealish has only ever taken two penalties for Villa, scoring in the play-off semi-final shootout win over West Bromwich Albion in May 2019 and hitting the crossbar in a Premier League match against Sheffield United in December of the same year.
As captain, Grealish was Villa’s designated penalty-taker for a period but he would often pick up the ball and ask the team’s strikers if they wanted to have a crack, knowing a goal could boost their confidence.
He allowed Ollie Watkins to take one against West Ham in November but the forward missed and Villa lost 2-1. The following month, he offered Anwar El Ghazi the chance to take a stoppage-time penalty, which he scored to beat Wolves. El Ghazi has been Villa’s penalty-taker ever since.
Who were the other possible takers?
Southgate said his choices had been limited by “two we had taken off earlier in the game”. He is likely speaking about Kieran Trippier, the Atletico Madrid full-back who is one of England’s dead-ball specialists, and Mason Mount, the Chelsea midfielder.
Declan Rice, who has scored one and missed one penalty for West Ham, had also been withdrawn.
In the final minutes of extra time, Southgate removed Kyle Walker, the Manchester City full-back, and Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool captain who had taken and missed a penalty in the warm-up games. He replaced them with Rashford and Sancho in order to get who he considered he better takers onto the pitch.
Footage of Southgate talking to his players before the shootout appears to give clues to who would have followed Saka if the shootout had continued, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Kalvin Phillips, Grealish and Luke Shaw all seemingly spoken to, which would have left John Stones and Raheem Sterling as England’s final takers before starting again, presumably with Kane, if it had gone that far.
Pickford scored for England in the shootout against Switzerland in the UEFA Nations League third-place playoff in 2019
Whether or not that was a true reflection of Southgate’s thinking, only Sterling and Grealish of England’s remaining forward players were not part of those first five, which backs up the manager’s view that he had picked the best takers and perhaps explains why he was so keen to get Rashford and Sancho on just for the shootout.
Statistically, who were the best penalty takers in the squad?
Kane is England’s most successful penalty-taker, scoring 10 of the 13 he has taken in regular play and the two he has taken in shootouts, so was a natural first-choice as taker (especially given England’s strategy of how to order a shootout, as we shall explain in a moment). The Tottenham Hotspur striker’s record at club level is also very good: 32 from 36 in regular play, two from two in shootouts.
Maguire was next up, and while he has never scored a penalty in a match, his shootout record is perfect: one from one in club football (for the Manchester United centre-back’s previous side, Leicester City), two from two for England. His finish, smashing the ball into the camera positioned high up in the goal, suggested he was pretty confident too.
Next came Rashford, and this is where the data abandoned England. The Manchester United forward had a 100 per cent penalty record with England (three from three in normal time, one from one in shootouts) and a very good one at club level (nine from 11 in normal time, one from one in shootouts). This was his first England miss, hitting the post as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma dove the other way.
Sancho, who went fourth and had his shot saved, was the other substitute sent on specifically to take a penalty and he had scored three penalties from three for Borussia Dortmund. Saka has not taken a penalty in his short senior career, so the conclusion would be that the ones he took in training were particularly impressive (though The Telegraph reported his record was “mixed”) or that the records and training efforts of the other options left on the field were not.
Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his penalty miss (Photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
Of those players, Grealish’s record, as explained above, is one from one in shootouts and none from one in open play, Shaw and Stones have each scored their only penalty for their clubs in shootouts, Phillips has scored two of his three in club shootouts and Pickford scored his only penalty in an international one. All of which suggests England had alternative competent options but not that there was a standout taker in reserve who Southgate overlooked.
The final option was Sterling, whose penalty record is poor.
He has a 40 per cent conversion rate from regular play and while he scored his only England penalty in a shootout, he has missed two of his three in them for Manchester City.
But why was 19-year-old Saka in the pressure position?
ITV pundit Keane was among those to criticise the choice of Saka as England’s fifth, and he felt, crucial penalty taker.
“If you’re Sterling or Grealish, you cannot sit there and have a young kid walk up ahead of you,” the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain and Sunderland manager said (this is the comment Grealish responded to on Twitter). “You can’t sit there and see a young kid — 19, a child — walk up in front of me when I’ve played a lot more games, and got a lot more experience.”
While Sterling and Grealish were probably not the answer, there is one school of thought that a side’s best takers should go later in the sequence of five penalties, when it is more likely to be do or die.
However, one of the findings from an FA study commissioned by Southgate was that the optimal order for penalty takers was not to backload them but to put your best takers first. England’s order against Italy certainly reflects that thinking.
Kane, their strongest taker, went first, then came Maguire’s thunderous effort, followed by Rashford and Sancho, whose records had been excellent. It did not have to be Saka but, whoever Southgate picked at five, it was not going to be one of his very best takers.
Does Rashford usually do that run-up?
Yes. Rashford used the same run-up technique in his last shootout, for Manchester United in the Europa League final defeat by Villarreal seven weeks ago. Rashford took United’s fourth penalty that night and, again, the opposition went first in each pair of kicks. He walked back, hopped to the left, ran forward, slowed down into the little steps and struck the ball firmly into (for him) the left corner.
Rashford, with the same technique, scores for United against Villarreal (Photo: Aleksandra Szmigiel – Pool/Getty Images)
Against Italy, Rashford went the same way but the strike was not as clean and he instead hit the post with the net gaping as the goalkeeper, as in the Villarreal game, having already dived the opposite way. One suggestion is that Donnarumma’s huge reach — he is 6ft 5in — made Rashford try to aim even further into the corner and he dragged it a couple of inches too wide.
Rashford has used the same technique for England before too, against Holland, Belgium and Romania, scoring all three penalties while sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. One player described him as being “unbelievable” at penalty taking and that he hadn’t missed once in England training during this tournament. The run-up he used in the final was also the one he used in those practice shootouts.
So that slightly strange run-up has worked before. Just not when it mattered the most.
In a powerful statement released after the game, Rashford wrote: “I’ve always backed myself for a penalty but something didn’t feel quite right. During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately the result was not what I wanted.
“I felt as though I had let my team-mates down. I felt as if I’d let everyone down. A penalty was all I’d been asked to contribute for the team. I can score penalties in my sleep so why not that one? It’s been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. One penalty. History. All I can say is, ‘Sorry’.”
Why didn’t Sancho and Rashford come on earlier?
Because they were being brought on specifically to take penalties. If you’re sending on two forwards in place of a defender and a midfielder at 1-1 in extra time, it’s a risk. It’s an even bigger risk when you send them on while you’re defending a corner, as Southgate did, fearing he would run out of time if he left it any later.
England ended up with Rashford and Sterling in the wing-back positions, which looked chaotic in the final minute of extra time, but there was method to the madness. Southgate believed Rashford and Sancho were two of his most reliable penalty-takers, so they had to be on the pitch somewhere at the final whistle.
The players may have preferred to have been on sooner, given it would have allowed them more touches of the ball, while psychologically it may have been a boost to be sent on to try to win the game in extra time rather than solely with the pressure of taking a penalty.
In the end, Rashford had two touches — one a tackle while playing as a makeshift right-back, the other his penalty — and Sancho three, including his spot kick.
Does bringing specialist takers off the bench ever work?
In short, yes. As our Nick Miller explained in a mid-Euros study of penalties taken at World Cups, European Championships and finals of the Champions League and Europa League, players who have been on from the start had scored 73.7 per cent of the time, while those who have come on in extra time scored 79.2 per cent of the time.
The caveats are that the difference is not huge and neither is the sample size — 48 were by substitutes — but certainly Southgate believed it was a worthwhile approach. That both players he sent on failed to score on Sunday somewhat undermines the move but a look back at the alternative options suggests it was probably worth trying given Rashford and Sancho’s records.
England have done this before.
Jamie Carragher was sent on in the 119th minute by Sven-Goran Eriksson after impressing in training, only to miss as they lost to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals. Carragher said was told so late that he did not have time to mentally prepare — whether or not that was an issue this time round is unknown, but Rashford and Sancho were far more familiar with the task than he’d been 15 years ago. The problem simply was that they didn’t score.
Why didn’t England’s years of penalty research pay off?
The feeling among England’s backroom staff is that, for a long time, they had developed a competitive disadvantage around penalties. Roy Hodgson, England manager from 2012 to 2016, called it “a negative obsession”. Gradually, through research, analysis and a systematic approach to practice, they felt as if their players have overcome that psychological hurdle. Or at least they had.
Pickford saved Italy’s second and fifth penalties, from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho. Isn’t that a sign of research paying off? The problem is that Rashford hit the post with England’s third penalty and then Sancho and Saka had theirs saved.
Looking at it, you would say that nerves got to some of the players who missed. You can work meticulously on analysis, technique and breathing exercises to minimise that, but you can’t get rid of it entirely.
England’s players look distraught at the end of the shootout (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
The thing is, other teams practice penalties, too. Italy used to have a terrible record in shootouts — they were played four, lost four at one stage in their history — and they too have invested a huge amount of research, analysis and practice into reversing that. They had beaten Spain on penalties in the semi-final five days earlier on that same Wembley pitch and could draw on the memory of that, whereas it was new territory of some of England’s youngsters.
At the end of the day, only one team can win a shootout.
There was also one key element that was beyond England’s control.
In the research commissioned by Southgate and carried out by the FA’s analysts, England found that it is much better for a team to go first than second when a match goes to penalties, but captain Kane lost the coin toss and counterpart Giorgio Chiellini rightly opted for Italy to open the batting.
Previously at Euro 2020, every team who went first in a shootout had won it. Italy went first on Sunday, and won the tournament.