ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP 2022 PENALTY-TAKERS: WHO SHOULD BE SELECTED?
By Rashmi Goel
As England prepares for its World Cup quarter-final clash with France this weekend, there will be one thing at the back of their minds as they prepare for their last-16 match against Senegal. There are penalties. There will be plenty of heartbreaks from 12 yards for the Three Lions this time around for the same reason that World Cup 2006, Euro 2004, France '98, Euro '96, and Italia '90 were also heartbreaking spot-kick ends for the Three Lions, but hopefully, this time will be different. In order to find out who should take over after 120 minutes, here is a list of some numbers to figure out who should step up.
Many teams seem to be adopting the practice of saving the strongest taker until the end of the game since it is often effectively a sudden death penalty if the strongest taker is saved until the end. During this year's League and FA Cup finals, Jorginho waited until the end for Italy at Euro 2020. During the Africa Cup of Nations, Sadio Mane won on the fifth kick. Nevertheless, you could be eliminated before your best shooter can arrive. Mohamed Salah had the same experience in that same Cup of Nations final. However, even if they are able to take the test, there is obviously no guarantee that they will succeed. As Salah was off the field at the conclusion of this year's FA Cup final, Mane missed the fifth penalty kick.
The fact that Kane is at one here suggests that Southgate prefers to put his best forward first. The five penalty-takers he has presided over in three shootouts have been Eric Dier, Jordan Pickford, and Saka. In his four career penalties, the Arsenal winger has missed just one, but it is the only one of those three that he has failed to convert. This was also the first time in his senior career that he had stepped up to play the spot, either in regular play or in shootouts. Despite missing, his record at the club level since taking penalty shots shows why Southgate trusted him in the first place. It is unlikely that some players will ever put themselves forward again. This was done by Saka. As a result of the 20-year-old's character and maturity beyond his years, Southgate is a great admirer of him.
The 26-year-old has never taken a penalty in regular practice, but, for some strange reason, no player in the squad has taken more penalties in shootouts than Harry Maguire has. There is no doubt that a lot of his sense of responsibility can be attributed to his time spent in the third tier with Sheffield United and battling his way through the early rounds of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, as it was at the time. The Manchester United captain has a little bit of a mixed record from the spot - six goals scored and three misses - but the most recent of those misses came seven years ago; in a League Cup first-round tie away at Accrington Stanley. A lot has changed in the years since then and there is now enough evidence to suggest that Maguire is one of the best penalty-takers in the game today.
While Callum Wilson's scoring record for Newcastle United was more important in helping him gain Southgate's recognition as the second-recognized center forward by way of Qatar, his penalty record also helped. Aston Villa's 4-0 win over him helped him book his place on the plane because his conversion rate rivals Kane's, and he converted from the spot in that match. During this tournament, it is unlikely that he and Kane will grace the pitch together, but Southgate has been known to keep substitutions in reserve and introduce his most effective penalty-takers late in matches. As long as Kane remains healthy and England is able to go the distance in Qatar on several occasions, Wilson's late, one-kick cameos will prove to be his greatest contribution. However, there is one unknown: Wilson has never taken a penalty in a shootout – for Newcastle against Newport County in the League Cup two seasons ago, and despite replacing Kane, he was not one of England's five takers in the Nations League third-place play-off against Switzerland. Nevertheless, his record speaks for itself and makes him an excellent candidate.
The order of the players follows that of the Euro 2020 final, with Rashford sitting at number three. Against Italy, this is where things went wrong. Having hit the inside of the post with his penalty on that night, Rashford has not appeared for England since. There has not been a penalty taken by him for either club or country since then. In light of the abhorrent racist abuse Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Saka suffered after the Euros final, it would be understandable that he might not be ready to take a penalty again – and it would be understandable if he didn't. However, Rashford's record of only missing three of 18 career penalties in his career is among the most impressive in the squad. After the miss against Italy last season, Rashford has endured one of the most difficult seasons of his professional career, and he has spoken recently of how he has "struggled mentally" for the past 18 months. However, a return to form for United has come at the right time.
The best penalty taker in England is Harry Kane. Tottenham Hotspur's striker stepped up first in the Italy shootout and converted emphatically since the Euros. As expected, given a career record of 62 conversions and only ten misses from the spot, at the most recent count. When it comes to shootouts, he has a perfect record: five out of five. Despite this, Kane does not possess a flawless record. After scoring on the rebound, it is easy to forget that the biggest pressure penalty of his career was initially saved by Kasper Schmeichel in extra time. The England captain has already missed two club matches this season, against Nottingham Forest and Eintracht Frankfurt. The team does not possess a large number of confident penalty-takers, so Kane will likely take the top spot-kick positions in regular play and step up first in any shootout. The first, fourth, and fifth penalties are extremely important, so getting off to a good start is crucial. Due to Kane, one of the tournament's best and most experienced penalty-takers, the English team can be confident they can take penalties.
In terms of penalties, Jordan Pickford is England's most feared goalkeeper. There is no doubt that he will be on the pitch when all is said and done, injury permitting; he is also one of the most confident members of this England squad, which has also contributed to his selection. At the senior level, he has only taken one penalty, a huge effort that he smashed into the top corner against Switzerland in the Uefa Nations League, but he has always looked in control in these situations. With Pickford in place, the nervy walk from halfway would not be a problem, and these situations are so much about the confidence of a man that England's main man would relish the opportunity. In terms of the tournament, he could decide whether to make a crucial save and fire in the winner or he can take responsibility for keeping the Three Lions in the game.
As for Dier, he has scored four of five penalties in his career. As a Tottenham center-back, the defender is perhaps unlucky to miss out on a spot in the top five, especially given the fact that in the past he has stepped up and scored a crucial fifth penalty for England, winning the shootout against Colombia back in 2018. In spite of his not taking penalties in regular play, Dier's record in shootouts is good, though there is a reasonable question over whether he would be on the pitch if it were just to take a sudden death penalty. Southgate would be far more likely to bring him on than to bring him on for a penalty.