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England must address penalty woes if they are to start winning tournaments says Owen Hargreaves

Owen Hargreaves says manager Gareth Southgate and the Football Association will need to solve England’s penalty issues if they’re to win a major tournament.

Owen Hargreaves

Penalty heartbreak is something England fans almost accept is part of a major tournament experience such has been the regularity of disappointment in recent years.

From Stuart Pearce in 1990, Gareth Southgate in 1996, David Batty in 1998, David Beckham in 2004, Frank Lampard in 2006 and even Ashley Cole as recently as 2012 – it’s been a recurring theme for far too long.

England have won only one World Cup or European Championship game on penalties and sadly have just a 14% shoot-out victory ratio, having been dumped out six times on spot kicks.

Owen Hargreaves was part of England’s 2004 and 2006 squads that were both denied semi-final places at the hands of Portugal on penalties.

And the former Manchester United midfielder, who scored in both shoot-outs, believes a mental block is damaging the national team in these key moments.

Ahead of the friendly with France in Paris on Tuesday, Hargreaves looks back at his time in the international set-up and explains what he believes needs to be done to change the pattern.

“We were unlucky with penalty shoot-outs,” said the former Bayern Munich man.

“We lost to the World Cup winners Brazil in the 2002 quarter-final in Japan which I think is fine, then we lost two quarter-finals against Portugal and if you win either of those you’re in a semi-final and the picture looks different.

“But for us we’ve never got past that hurdle and obviously penalties was a big one for us.

“So that’s something the new regime, Gareth [Southgate] and the FA need to address from the youth level all the way to the top.”

Some England managers have chosen to practice penalties in the build-up to tournaments, while others say it is pointless because you cannot replicate the true scenario in training.

The Under 21 squad ended their 3-0 friendly victory over Iceland with a penalty shoot-out on Saturday – to secure some in-game practice ahead of this summer’s Euro 2017 tournament.

Manager Aidy Boothroyd has said his team will practice spot kicks ahead of the tournament in Sweden and that he has tried to learn from Southgate’s disappointment in Euro ‘96.

And Hargreaves believes it is leaning on these types of experiences, and analysing why England have come unstuck time and again, that will lead to the senior squad turning a corner in future.

Hargreaves added: “You ask anybody taking penalties, they aren’t a hard physical exercise but mentally there are a lot of things you can think about before you go and take it.

“If you’re creating a negative picture and worry that you’re going to miss – you’re either at the back of the paper in the sports section or you’ll be on the front and if that’s the case you’ve probably missed!

“These are all things that affect the psychological element and the players that do well just pick a spot and are confident, focussing only on the positive aspects.

“Imagining I’m going to hit it there and score, going back to celebrate with my team-mates and my family is watching is all positive.

“Whereas if you’re thinking I’m not going to score, I was planning to go on holiday but I’m going to get slaughtered – then you’ve already missed.

“And I think for us that is something we need to address, the FA need to talk to players and teach them that it’s okay to miss but go up there with the right process, the right frame of mind, the right run up – pick your spot and hit the target.

“And if you miss or the keeper makes a save, he’s at the tournament for a reason so he’s probably pretty good at his job too, I think if we could address that it would give us a better chance.”

England’s Under 20 side won the nation’s biggest international title since 1966 on Sunday and after Southgate said they were the benchmark going forward, perhaps the penalty curse can also be lifted.

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