England, Penalties, & Major Tournament: Cursed?

Laurence Griffiths

On Wednesday, the Footballing Gods gave a sneak peek of England's chances of succeeding in a penalty shootout at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

It wasn't pretty.

Out of 10 penalty takers, four were Englishmen (Danny Welbeck, Craig Gardner, Adam Johnson, and Phil Jones), out of that infamous group, three have been capped at the senior level, Welbeck has 20 caps, Johnson has 11, and Jones has 9, and Gardner has been capped at the U-21 level.

Although their penalty misses do not necessarily mean that England would definitely crash out on penalties in this summer's World Cup (for instance Craig Gardner is the only regular penalty taker for their club, more on that later though), it probably does not encourage Roy Hodgson when 120 minutes are up, with scores tied at the knockout stages in Brazil.

No matter how dismal England's record in a penalty shootout has been in major tournaments (0 for 3 in penalty shootouts, knocked out in World Cup '98, Euro '04, World Cup '06, Euro '12), the next time England are involved they have approximately 5 penalties and a 50-50 chance of progressing. Since the only possible outcome is either scoring or missing (or if you are Sergio Ramos, then hitting the moon is possible).

With that in mind let's take a look at how English players have fared so far in penalty shoot-outs and then the 5 players that Roy Hodgson should choose when the time comes for penalties.

This season through 22 league games, there have been 45 penalties. Out of 45 penalties 37 have been successfully converted (a success rate of just over 80%), 2 missed and 6 saved. The number of times an English player has taken the spot kick is 18, out of which 16 were successful (a success rate of nearly 89%). In those 18 instances, Steven Gerrard leads the way, having taken 4 penalties and putting all of them away.

2013/14 Penalty stats

Player (Penalties Scored/Penalties Failed/Penalties Attempted) - success %

Steven Gerrard (4/0/4) - 100%

Ricky Lambert (2/0/2) - 100%

Leighton Baines (1/0/1) - 100%

Saido Berahino (1/0/1) - 100%

Adam Johnson (1/0/1) - 100%

Wayne Rooney (1/0/1) - 100%

Gary Hooper (1/0/1) - 100%

Mark Noble (1/0/1) - 100%

Craig Gardner (1/0/1) - 100%

Dwight Gayle (1/01) - 100%

Frank Lampard (1/1/2) - 50%

Jason Puncheon (1/1/2) - 50%

In the league cup, as of the semi-finals there have been 4 matches involving Premier League sides that was settled through the penalty shoot-outs, WBA v Arsenal (3-4), Birmingham City v Stoke City (2-4), Tottenham vs Hull City (8-7), and Manchester United vs Sunderland (1-2). From these 4 matches, 12 English players took a penalty, with a split of 6 successful and 6 unsuccessful penalties for a success rate of 50% (the last 4 unsuccessful ones coming from MU vs Sunderland game). While in regulation and extra time there have been 4 penalties awarded, in which only one Englishmen has taken it, when Matthew Taylor of West Ham United scored v Burnley in the Round of 16. (In the FA Cup, no PL side have been involved in penalty shootouts or awarded penalties either).

There seems to be a stark difference between the penalty stats in the league and the league cup. In the knockout competition, the success rate for English player dropped from nearly 89% to nearly 54%. This can be pointed out to several reasons mainly:

  1. In the league where there are no penalty shootouts, teams tend to use their best penalty taker, as penalty is considered more valuable. This means that an English player that have a high penalty success rate in the league is likely to be England's best penalty taker.
  2. In knockout competitions, most of the failure have been during the penalty shoot-outs. Although its hard to pinpoint it with numbers, nerve definitely played a part since a missed penalty may send that player's team crashing out. Furthermore, there might be added pressure in instances of the order of taking a penalty (a team that goes first may set the tone and inflict pressure on the other team with a successful penalty), being the last taker may put added pressure on a player, etc. Fatigue may also play a part, since the penalties are taken by players that may have played more than 90 minutes.
  3. Teams does not necessarily use their best player in the league cup. For PL sides this means rotating their squad for the more important games on the weekend, consequently the penalty takers in this competition may not be the one that is best in his side.

So then, its July 4th 2014, England have spectacularly held the host Brazil to a 1-1 draw (Neymar with a solo effort equivalent of Maradona's in 1986), before Jack Wilshere out-muscles Thiago Silva and headed one past Julio Cesar. The referee blows the whistle.. this quarter final is going to penalty shoot-outs! Who does Roy Hodgson chooses? Well, in my attempt to help England break the penalty shoot-out curse in major tournament, his first five should be:

  1. Steven Gerrard, skipper for club and country. Pro: success rate of 81% for Liverpool (35 for 43), scored in 2006 FA Cup final penalty shoot-outs (Liverpool won it) and against Italy in Euro 2012 (England lose). Cons: missed one against Portugal in the QF penalty shoot-outs in World Cup 2006.
  2. Frank Lampard, likely to be his last major tournament. Pro: success rate of 86% for Chelsea (55 for 64, including penalty shoot-outs), scored in 2009 Community Shield & 2012 Champions League final (Chelsea won), and vs Portugal in the QF of Euro 2004 (England lose, a common recurring theme). Cons: missed vs Portugal in 2006 World Cup QF vs Portugal.
  3. Leighton Baines, record penalty taker in PL. Pro: success rate of 100% in the PL for Wigan and Everton (11 for 11). Cons: Have not been involved in penalty shoot-outs with England (although this could be pro as well)
  4. Rickie Lambert, never missed a penalty for Southampton. Pro: Err.. never missed a penalty for Southampton (32 for 32, 100% success rate). Cons: most of those penalties have been taken outside the top flights (5 in PL), not exactly a lock for England's 23-man squad.
  5. Wayne Rooney, England's top scorer in the qualifying rounds with 7 goals. Pro: Best of the worst. Scored in Euro 2012 QF v Italy. Cons: spotty success rate with clubs (19 of 28, 67%).

Picking England's 5th penalty taker is harder because even though there are players such as Ashley Cole, Michael Carrick, or Daniel Sturridge, their sample size is rather small (less than 5 penalties) when compared to Wayne Rooney. It must also be considered the likelihood of a player making the squad or appearing in the game (which is why its Baines over Ashley Cole).

So there you have it, Roy Hodgson take notice. England fans, don't hold your breath.

Stats from:,,,

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