Focus on England penalties is 'embarrassing', says Waddle

By Sports Desk July 13, 2021

Chris Waddle believes it is "embarrassing" that so much focus is put on England's failures in penalty shoot-outs.

England's hopes of ending their 55-year wait for a major trophy were dashed in Sunday's Euro 2020 final when Italy prevailed on spot-kicks at Wembley.

The Three Lions won their previous major tournament shoot-out against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and then beat Switzerland by the same method at the Nations League Finals.

Manager Gareth Southgate, who famously missed from 12 yards in the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany, has worked hard to improve his team's processes.

But Marcus Rashford's shot against the post and Gianluigi Donnarumma's saves from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka handed England their seventh shoot-out defeat in nine at World Cups and European Championships. That is the worst record of any European nation to have been involved in three or more.

The first of those saw West Germany eliminate England at the 1990 World Cup after Waddle blazed his penalty over the crossbar.

But the former Newcastle United, Tottenham and Marseille winger says he was better for the experience and feels too much attention is paid to spot-kicks.

Kylian Mbappe and Alvaro Morata were other high-profile players to cost their sides in shoot-outs at Euro 2020, while only nine of the 17 attempts outside shoot-outs were converted.

"For me personally, when I missed mine, and I'm sure Stuart Pearce probably can say the same, we went on to be stronger players," Waddle told Stats Perform.

"I won three French titles, came back to England and had two cup finals with Sheffield Wednesday, could've won one. I won Footballer of the Year. Things went great.

"I was determined it wasn't going to play on my mind, I was determined that I would never crawl into a corner and hide away.

"I missed a pen. Who hasn't? Yeah, people might say the magnitude of the game obviously got more publicity than [it] normally would, but they've all missed.

"You can go through other players. I don't really know a player who's had a 100 per cent record at penalties.

"So, yeah, you can say this game is different from that game and that game, but overall, you can go through the greatest players in your mind and they've missed. You move on. It's life.

"It's a horrible way to lose a game. People say to me it's a pen, it's 12 yards out, you've got a free shot. It doesn't work like that.

"You can mis-hit it, you can hit it too well, you can get the wrong idea, the goalie guesses the right way.

"You know, we make so much [of it]. We're the only country in the world, by the way, who make such a thing about penalty kicks.

"When I was in France, if they go out, it's not even mentioned. It's like history. 'We shouldn't have been in that position, the game should have been decided in 120 minutes'. You've got 120 minutes to win a football match.

"I've seen a lot of teams lose and go out of tournaments to it; that's the end of it, you move on.

"And the more we talk about Saka, Sancho, Rashford, it's not helping them, it's not helping England, so move on.

"We know it's a common occurrence people do miss pens. We see it in the Premier League, we saw in this tournament: the first seven pens, four were missed. It happens.

"You know, we make such a deal of it. And it's embarrassing, really, I've got to say."

Sunday's match was the second example – after the 2006 World Cup loss to Portugal – of England failing with three penalties in a single shoot-out, and Southgate's decision to name Rashford, Sancho and Saka in his order has been questioned.

Outside of shoot-outs, Rashford had scored nine of 11 attempts for Manchester United and three of three for England. Sancho scored all three of his for Borussia Dortmund.

But they were introduced specifically for penalties with just moments remaining in extra time, while Saka, just 19, had never previously taken a senior spot-kick.

Waddle said: "It sort of backfired, didn't it?

"All Gareth can go off is he's experienced the same scenario as what happened to the players. In training there is no way you can compare.

"That's why people say to me, 'Did you practise in training in 1990?'. No, we didn't really. And people said we should have.

"Now they've practised probably more than any team in the competition. And they've lost.

"You can't sort of play that part of walking from the centre spot to the penalty spot to take a pen in a major competition where there's 60,000 there.

"And you remember you've got 30, 40, 50 million, maybe more around Europe and the world, watching this game. So, you just can't do it.

"The training ground is nowhere near a proper match in a proper penalty shoot-out. There's no comparison to a training ground.

"Now obviously Gareth saw them in the training; by the looks of it, probably Saka has never missed on the training ground.

"But it's a different proposition when you're walking there, the pressure's on and I can see why people said experienced players should've [gone ahead of Saka].

"Gareth said that was his call, he saw the penalty takers through the tournament practising and they were the ones who caught his eye. So, all he can go off is what he saw.

"And I don't think there's any way around [that]. People said it should have been [Jordan] Henderson and it should have been [Jack] Grealish or it should have been [John] Stones or whoever.

"You can only go with what you see on your eye, and if the player says yes. So, when he's gone, 'You, you, you', and they've gone, 'Yes, yes, yes', that's out of Gareth's hands then.

"And if any player was in any doubt, or slightly in doubt, he should have said it doesn't feel right. And somebody else I'm sure would have said, 'Yeah, I'll have it'.

"We'll learn from that; hopefully Gareth will learn from that. The players will. It's a horrible way to lose."

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