Tuesday, July 16, 2024

England penalties: Nine things you need to know before Euro 2024 Netherlands semi-final – BBC Sport

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Video caption, England v Switzerland all the penalties

England’s five perfect penalties to beat Switzerland in the Euro 2024 quarter-final were a combination of practice, precision, and performance under pressure.

But what if their semi-final against Netherlands goes the same way? Can they really be that good again?

BBC Sport looks closely at both teams’ penalty records and some of the secrets behind England’s shootout strategy.

1. What is the Netherlands’ penalty record?

Image caption, Where the Netherlands have scored and missed penalties in major tournaments – Euros and World Cups
  • Netherlands’ last penalty shootout was against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup (4-3 loss in the shootout). Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis had their penalties saved by Emiliano Martinez.
  • Netherlands have lost all four previous major tournament semi-final penalty shootouts: Euro 1992 versus Denmark; World Cup 1998 versus Brazil; Euro 2000 versus Italy; and World Cup 2014 versus Argentina.
Image caption, How the Netherlands have fared in major tournament shootouts

2. Who takes penalties for the Netherlands?

In their World Cup 2022 quarter-final 4-3 shootout defeat by Argentina, this was the Netherlands penalty order:

  • Virgil van Dijk – saved
  • Steven Berghuis – saved
  • Teun Koopmeiners – scored
  • Wout Weghorst – scored
  • Luuk de Jong – scored

With Berghuis, Koopmeiners and De Jong not in Koeman’s Euro 2024 squad, here’s a selection of Netherlands’ other potential penalty takers.

*Only non-shootout stats available via Opta

  • Memphis Depay – scored 32 from 43 career penalties (74% conversation rate)
  • Wout Weghorst – scored 18 from 27 (66%)
  • Steven Bergwijn – scored 10 from 10 (100%)
  • Georginio Wijnaldum – scored seven from nine (78%)
  • Joey Veerman – scored four from seven (57%)
  • Cody Gakpo – scored four from five (80%)
  • Donyell Malen – scored three from five (60%)
  • Xavi Simons – scored three from four (75%)
  • Denzel Dumfries – scored three from three (100%)

3. What is England’s penalty record?

Image caption, Where do England score and miss their penalties in shootouts?
  • England have won three of their last four penalty shootouts in all competitions: a win at the 2018 World Cup against Colombia; a win in the 2018-19 Nations League against Switzerland, a loss in Euro 2020 final versus Italy; and the win against Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024.
  • England have scored 18 of their past 19 penalties, including in shootouts. The only miss in this run was by Harry Kane in their 2-1 quarter-final loss against France at the 2022 World Cup. Kane had netted from the spot earlier in that game.
Image caption, England’s penalty shootout record in major tournaments

4. Who are England’s best penalty takers?

Image caption, England’s individual penalty record for club and country including shootouts

5. Pickford’s bottle got 75% of penalties right

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Zoom in to see Pickford’s player-by-player penalty tips printed on his water bottle. Pickford said: “I thought I hid it well but obviously not!”

Pickford has now saved four of the 14 penalties he’s faced in major tournament penalty shootouts for England.

And if he had followed the instructions on his bottle exactly, he could have saved two of Switzerland’s four penalties in the quarter-final tie…

Pickford bottle instructions vs what happened

Water bottle instruction: “Dive left”

Water bottle instruction: “Fake right, dive left”

Pickford: (Opposite) Faked left, dived right

Result: Scored to Pickford’s left

Water bottle instruction: “Dive left”

Result: Scored to Pickford’s left, above his dive

Water bottle instruction: “Hold – Dive left – Go! (low)”

Pickford: Held position, shuffled feet, dived low to left

Penalty: Scored low down middle

Video caption, The ref interrupted my routine – Pickford

After the game, Pickford said the referee “stopped” his “normal process” of delaying tactics – including handing the ball to his team-mates – by threatening to give him a yellow card.

But former England international Izzy Christiansen told BBC Radio 5 Live that Pickford took his “one chance” to “play all his mind games”.

“He’d chosen his moment and I was watching Akanji walking over to put the ball down on the spot,” she added. “Jordan Pickford started walking towards the goal, then he turned back around again and walked back the other way, just to get his towel and drinks bottle. Delay tactics, it worked once. That is the one he saved.

“That gave the backing for his team to go on and convert their penalties.

“It was a superb penalty strategy from England.”

Video caption, England v Switzerland penalty analysis

6. Toney ‘practises from 13 yards not 12 yards’

England’s official social media channels have been embracing the Ivan Toney ‘no-look’ penalty reaction, with the Brentford striker trying his hand at ‘no-look’ darts, basketball, Connect4 and even reading a book…

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Brentford’s sport psychologist Michael Caulfield, who has also worked with Southgate, says Toney has “almost changed the way penalties can be taken”.

“That was an incredible piece of skill and courage to actually trust your process, under that much pressure, without even daring to look at the ball,” he said.

“It’s a remarkable skill which he has refined over years and years of practice and he’s got an extraordinary mind for a young man.

“This is a very tough young man, a very smart young man.

“Penalties are not a lottery. I hope we’ve finally nailed that one down.”

With 37 penalties scored from 40 taken across all club and country appearances, Toney last missed a penalty in April 2023 for Brentford against Newcastle.

According to an interview with Toney’s former coach Bob Jeffery, a goalkeeping director who worked with the striker in the US during his betting ban, the striker practises spot-kicks from 13 yards, so that when he takes a normal 12-yard penalty “the goal looks bigger”.

Asked about the penalty, Toney himself told BBC after the game: “I wouldn’t say pressure, I always have my own routine. Just focus and do what I always do, which is just take your time and roll the ball into the net. I never look at the ball.

“Some people might see it as crazy, but I’ve been sticking to it and it has been working.”

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7. ‘And breathe’ – England take 5.2 seconds per pen

Geir Jordet, author of the book Pressure: Lessons from the Psychology of the Penalty Shootout, told The Athletic the England penalty takers took an average 5.2 seconds from the referee’s whistle to starting their run-up – compared to the Swiss average of 1.3 seconds.

Jordet said that pause “to take the time to have two or three deep breaths” is about “more control over yourself in that moment”.

Caulfield told BBC Radio 5 live: “It’s saying, ‘I will take the penalty when I’m ready, not when everyone else is ready, not when the referee says so or when the goalkeeper stops dancing on the goalline.’

“One thing we all do, in all walks of life when we’re under intense pressure, we tend to rush.

“All they’re doing is slowing it down so they’re in complete control of their mind, body and emotions, and then they take the penalty. They’ve got it down to a fine art.”

8. Shootout ‘buddy’ system

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Only the players still on the field and coaches were part of Southgate’s huddle before the penalty shootout against Switzerland – a change from the Euro 2020 final shootout, which England lost to Italy

Penalty expert Jordet also picked up on a “subtle innovation” of “social psychology”, where England assigned each penalty taker a ‘buddy’ who would walk down and ‘collect’ the taker and welcome him back into the group.

For Saka’s penalty, pictured below, John Stones played that role.

Jordet said: “I assume this buddy would also support their assigned penalty taker if he were to fail.

“This was was painfully lacking in 2021, when Rashford walked 50 metres alone after his missed shot.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, England’s John Stones acts as a ‘buddy’ for penalty taker Bukayo Saka, congratulating him and cutting short the long walk back to the centre circle.

All these separate processes within a shootout were broken down and reconstructed by Chris Markham, insights lead analyst at the FA, and his team, from January 2017 to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Markham has since said: “It was an 18-month piece of work, in which we reviewed all the literature and collected bespoke data on thousands of penalties, including everything you could imagine – run-up angle, length, steps, strategies of keepers, distraction techniques. It was all-encompassing.”

Jordet added on Markham’s research: “I can safely say that no other team in the history of football has ever prepared as thoroughly and diligently for penalties as England did before the 2018 World Cup.”

As Southgate told BBC Sport on Tuesday in the video below, England have continued to “learn” and “refine” their processes over the years to feel “a lot of control”.

Video caption, England have ‘some control’ in penalty shootouts – Southgate

9. ‘Don’t practice too much’ – Hasselbaink’s role

The role of former Dutch international and current England forwards coach Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink was praised as “massive” by Jude Bellingham after the quarter-final shootout.

And Phil Foden told the BBC Sounds Football Daily podcast: “Jimmy’s got a lot of experience in the game, so he knows his stuff.

“I feel like when I first came into the England side, maybe we were practising too much…So as you see now, we have Jimmy for that reason, to only take a couple [of us], not overdo it, and practise your spot and sticking with it.”

Audio captionSteve Crossman presents the latest from the England camp ahead of the semi-finals.

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