Soccer: Southgate thinks outside the box to overcome England penalty curse
By Neil Robinson
LONDON (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate is thinking of putting his team through a mock penalty shootout before a Wembley crowd in an attempt to overcome their traditional nerves at major competitions.
England have suffered shootout eliminations from six major tournaments – three World Cups and three European Championships – since Italia 90, enjoying one solitary success against Spain in Euro 96.
Their win ratio of 14 per cent is the worst of any major nation involved in more than five shootouts.
Southgate famously missed from the spot against Germany in Euro 96, allowing himself to be lampooned in a pizza advert alongside Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce, who both fluffed penalties in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany.
England's failures have become a recurring national joke, with acres of newsprint and even academic studies devoted to why their players are found wanting in such situations.
The conclusions have included the speed at which England take penalties - an average 0.28 seconds response time from when the referee blows his whistle - to being trapped in a decades-long cycle of failure.
Statistics suggest that players have an 89 percent chance of scoring if the team's last two shootouts have been successful. The figure drops to 57 per cent if they have failed, as England almost always have.
Former Sven-Goran Eriksson considered countering England's dismal record by ordering a dress rehearsal before the 2006 World Cup, but never went through with the idea.
Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missed from the spot when England lost their quarter-final shootout against Portugal.
Now Southgate has resurrected the plan as part of his preparations for next year's World Cup finals.
"It's something that we are considering – how we prepare best for penalty shootouts," said Southgate.
"Whether that's something on the training ground, whether that's in sessions we do away from the training ground, or something we do in some sort of match scenario. We've not finalised that yet but clearly that (match situation) is an option."
Southgate has decided against trialling his idea when England play Brazil at Wembley on Tuesday but has further opportunities against Italy and the Netherlands before the tournament in Russia.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond)