Picking England players for a shoot-out

Who would you pick as England’s top five penalty takers?

‘Own the shoot-out.’ That’s the messages that Gareth Southgate told his players to help them break England’s penalty hoodoo and win their last TWO penalty shoot-outs.

England’s players have learned how to practise with purpose for penalties, and the prospect of a knock-out match going the distance, (even against Germany), should not fill the nation with the fear it once did. The question for Southgate is which players should he put forward – remember, it’s his decision and not up to the players – if Tuesday’s knock-out tie goes to penalties.

Photo: Michael Regan / PA

I had the pleasure of re-watching England’s last two penalty shoot-outs to see what lessons we can take from them.

Below are the penalties from the 2019 Nations League play-off against Switzerland, a match in which Harry Kane was subbed off for Callum Wilson after 75 minutes:

1.Harry Maguire, right foot, GK-Independent, non-natural side: off a long run-up, struck with the laces, powered into the corner of the goal. Had GK gone the right way (he didn’t), he would not have been able to stop it.

2.Ross Barkley, right foot, GK-Independent, down the middle: The closest to a Panenka any England player has scored from. It was a bit flatter than the original, but it worked. Also close to GK-Dependent, as Barkley does look up during his run-up, but he looks down before and as he strikes. “Nerves of steel,” said commentator Martin Tyler. Barkley had been subbed on for Fabian Delph in the second half of extra-time, perhaps for this reason.

3.Jadon Sancho, right foot GK-Independent, non-natural side: Another late sub (for Jesse Lingard), Sancho skipped to his left to widen the angle before his run-up, suggesting a kick to the non-natural side. That’s where it went, and the goalkeeper touched it but could not keep it out. Very close to being saved.

4.Raheem Sterling, right foot GK-Independent, natural side: Slow run-up, struck so well into the corner that even though Sommer goes the right way, he can’t get close to it. A good example of focusing on the execution and not the outcome.

5.Jordan Pickford, left foot GK-Independent, natural side: Probably the best penalty of the lot. A short run-up, powered into the natural side with some height on it. Unsaveable. Significantly, Pickford did a huge celebration after his penalty, pumping his fists and raising one arm above his shoulders to gee up the crowd.

6.Eric Dier, right foot GK-Independent non-natural side: Stroked the ball home as Sommer dived the right way, but a little late. The pressure of kicking second then told on Switzerland’s Josip Drmic, as Pickford kept out his effort to win the shoot-out.

One year earlier, here are the pens against Colombia:

1.Harry Kane, right foot, GK-Independent, natural side: Kane had already scored a penalty in this match, going down the middle against David Ospina. This time he waited for about five seconds before kicking, and slammed it low into the corner of the goal on his natural side. A fantastic penalty, Ospina went the right way.

2.Marcus Rashford, right foot, GK-Independent, natural side: Another long wait, Rashford starts his approach central, skips three times to the left, stutters on his runup but picks up pace before putting his head down and smashing the ball with pace to his natural side. Ospina dives correctly but is nowhere near it.

3.Jordan Henderson, right foot, GK-Independent, non-natural side: Shorter run-up, struck well but a nice height for Ospina, who dives the right way and palms it away. Henderson had scored a penalty against Ospina for Liverpool in 2015, but he missed in a friendly against last month

4.Kieran Trippier, right foot, GK-Independent, natural side: Trippier was on dead-ball duty for England at the tournament, and this effort showed why. A short run-up but an unstoppable penalty fired into the top right-hand corner. The best of the lot!

5.Eric Dier, right foot, GK-Ind, natural side: Kicking to win the shoot-out, Dier strokes his penalty to his natural side. It’s quite near the centre of the goal and Ospina dives the right way. Ospina gets a hand on it, and his body behind it, yet the ball still squeezes into the net. Dier is the hero, but behind the joy and excitement is an overwhelming sense of relief…

Southgate knows his players really well. He supports them, and they know he has their back. So, whatever happens in a shoot-out, it’s clear the players have what experts call ‘psychological safety’ – the space where they can be themselves and have permission to fail. This can improve performance.

With that in mind, my FIVE picks for an England shoot-out, assuming everyone is fit and available after 120 minutes, would be:

1. Harry Kane

2. Harry Maguire

3. Raheem Sterling

4. Kieran Tripper

5. Marcus Rashford


What do you think? Please send in your suggestions, either below or at @benlyt. The first person to send me five names which match up with what England actually go with will win a signed copy of Twelve Yards!


  • Thanks Massimo, for telling me that Italian paper La Reppublica ran a shoot-out simulation ahead of their Round of 16 tie against Austria. It had Italy winning 3-2, with Bonucci, Immobile and Chiesa scoring (and Acerbi missing), but for some reason only let the Austrians take three pens. Harsh!

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