There are some stories in sport that seem to be a given. One of them is that English football teams cannot handle the pressure of a penalty shoot out. The men normally lose against Germany as in 1990 and 1996 and Portugal in 2004 and 2006 while the women fared no better and crashed out against France on Saturday in Germany at the World Cup. This somehow suggests that English football has a profound problem when it comes to penalties.
So what is it that makes the nerves of England‘s finest ball players go awol once the game has been played out and the result has to be established via spot kicks? Is it the pressure they are under? In a tournament, every game means pressure, particularly the knock out stages. In case of the men it has to be said they are professionals, which cannot be said of all the women playing football. Therefore the factor pressure is to be ruled out as they have to take all those things into account as it their day-to-day profession. The women meanwhile are not all in the lucky position to call themselves professional. Rather, they ply their trade on a part-time basis in which they have to earn their living with a day job and football is their pastime. This could be used as an excuse for failing to convert a spot kick, however, one is inclined to think that having to deal with a day job and being able to focus on football after work, it is not far to suggest that should be an easy task even for the women.
The lack of technical ability simply does not count here as the it is the easiest and first taught lesson in football to kick a ball in a straight line. In fact, this is what many English footballers did, hammer the ball down the middle of the goal and hope the goalkeeper jumps to either side, not putting him or herself in the path of the ball. Concentration is a key factor and might be tricky but once more, most men are professionals and they should be able to concentrate over the course of 120 minutes and if necessary even longer. If they fail to do both, concentrate and possessing technique, they should consider a day job in an office, far away from any football pitch.
Which brings us to the last point. A mental problem, a mental blockade. This appears to be the case. If not, step forward and prove the opposite! How else can those failures be explained? It is the hope that somehow someone will step forward and rescue the team from its misery, i.e. extra time et cetera and will push it through the hard times, directly towards glory. It is the hope for Roy of the Rovers to enter the field late and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and save it for England without having to endure the tediousness of a penalty shoot out. Over the last few years, there have been a few young players who have been proclaimed to be the next incarnation of Roy of the Rovers: Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere to name the two most recent and before that there were David Beckham, Michael Owen and the rest of the so-called Golden Generation. The best example certainly is the picture of Rooney in a Jesus like position with St. George’s cross painted on his body, so as if to say, he’ll be the saviour of English football. Football is promoted to the status of a religion or something resembling that. How did it come to that? This would lead too far and is not the original point taken for this post. The question remains how England will handle the problem of penalty shoot outs that come in regular intervals at major football tournaments, provided they qualify.
How to end this post? No solution will and can be given here, obviously. The problem is endemic it seems and needs to be approached by the FA and the coaching and teaching institutions of English football. One question remains, though, where did it all go wrong?