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.
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
“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.
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
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.