Gareth Southgate says England have ‘refined’ penalty preparations

Gareth Southgate has been refining England’s penalty shoot-out preparations in an attempt to prevent a repeat of their Euro 2020 heartbreak.

Having topped Group C despite attracting scathing criticism for their performances, England now face Slovakia in the last 16 of Euro 2024.

England lost the last European Championships final on penalties to Italy at Wembley as they came closer than ever to ending the wait for a major men’s trophy, a run which now stretches back 58 years.

Gareth Southgate dejected after failing to score in the penalty shoot-out loss to Germany at Euro 96
Gareth Southgate failed to score in the penalty shoot-out loss to Germany at Euro 96 (PA)

Southgate himself missed from the spot as England were beaten by Germany in a shoot-out at Euro 96, with penalty pain seemingly hanging over the nation in major tournaments.

That changed slightly at the 2018 World Cup as Southgate’s side beat Colombia to reach the quarter-finals.

Then followed another triumph on spot-kicks in the 2019 Nations League third-placed play-off against Switzerland – only for the loss to Italy to follow two years later.

Ahead of the Slovakia clash in Gelsenkirchen, Southgate explained the process of honing shoot-out preparations.

“We’ve had a way of working that we’ve always refined,” he told ITV Sport.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia’s Carlos Bacca during the FIFA World Cup 2018, round of 16 shoot-out

“Obviously, in the last tournament, we didn’t use that but we’ve still refined things that we felt could have been done differently since then.

“We’ve been preparing quietly for that for quite a while.”

The loss to Italy in 2021 saw Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho miss from 12 yards, with the trio then targets of racial abuse on social media.

Both Rashford and Sancho came on in the last minute of extra-time purely to be involved in the shoot-out.

Southgate, though, pointed to a number of examples where such a policy has worked as he stopped short from saying whether he would do the same again.

“It’s an interesting concept because (Paulo) Dybala came on in the World Cup final with a minute to go and took a penalty and scored (for Argentina).

“In the Europa League Final a few years ago, (Manchester United manager) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put on Juan Mata and Alex Telles in the 122nd minute, both of them scored.

“They lost and he got killed for not changing the goalkeeper. So we’re in a world where the outcome determines the narrative.”

Pushed on whether he would substitute players on again, Southgate replied: “We will have to wait and see…”