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Penalty triumph reward shows the
belief in Southgate’s new England   

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- “Yes we can!” It’s not often that the English newspaper The Guardian gets carried away, but the drama of Tuesday night’s penalty shootout in Moscow has affected even the more sober sections of the English press.

England don’t win penalty shootouts (or at least they didn’t) and The Guardian reflected on the pain the current England coach Gareth Southgate felt when he missed the decisive penalty in the shootout which saw England knocked out of the 1996 European Championships at Wembley against Germany.

Speaking after Tuesday’s win, Southgate was asked about his miss, which started a long line of heart-breaking defeats in penalty shootouts which threatened to ingrain themselves into the English psyche and had clearly affected players in past tournaments. “It will never be off my back, sadly. That’s something that will live with me forever,” said Southgate in his post-game press conference, before looking at what actually winning a shootout could mean for England.

“Today is a special moment for this team. It’ll hopefully give belief to the generations of players that will follow. We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations. I think these young players are showing that. They’re enjoying the tournament, and we’re looking forward now to the quarter-finals,” Southgate said.

England’s record on penalties is truly dismal: they lost the semi-finals of Italia 1990 to Germany on penalties, then after beating Spain in the quarterfinals of the 1996 European Championships at Wembley, the Germans did it again in the semi-finals.

Argentina knocked England out of the 1998 World Cup on penalties and Portugal did it in the quarterfinals of the 2004 European Championships. It happened again at the same stage of the 2006 World Cup, before penalties delivered the coup-de-grace to the 2012 European Championships.

England had a record of one win in seven attempts before the players took the long walk from the center circle to the penalty spot on Tuesday night. England fans would have been torn between hope and deep-down thinking: “here we go again.”

“When something goes wrong in your life it doesn’t finish you and you should become braver, knowing that you’ve got to go for things in life and don’t regret because you didn’t try to be as good as you might be,” said Southgate.

England have been practicing penalties since March, but not just the penalties, they have practiced that long walk from the halfway line and even done it with people shouting and trying to make them lose concentration, so that it becomes routine. In Moscow the England players knew who the five designated penalty takers would be and their replacements if one had been injured or substituted.They also knew who would take a sixth or seventh penalty if needed: nothing was left to chance... there were no surprises.

Jordan Henderson saw his kick saved by David Ospina, but it was a good save from the Colombia keeper and tellingly, every penalty was on target and well directed, while England keeper Jordan Pickford, said he too had put in the hours studying the Colombian penalty takers. Learning from your mistakes and using your experience to the benefit of others: that is what Southgate has done. His young England side has shaken the penalty shootout monkey from their backs; they will feel unstoppable. All of England hopes that just might be the case.

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