International Football

Euro 2012: Why England Will Want to Avoid a Penalty Shootout at All Costs

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19:  Steven Gerrard of England celebrates victory and progress to the quarter-finals  during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2012

We all know the story by now, or at least fans of England do, that the Three Lions have had a few bits of bad luck since winning the 1966 FIFA World Cup at home.

The bits of bad luck include an incident known as The Hand of God, you may have heard of that, and a long history of failures in penalty shootouts.

In four out of the last seven major tournaments—World Cups and European Championships—that England has qualified for, it has been knocked out on penalties.

The list of players that have missed penalties in those tournaments include a who's who of English football.

The most famous of all the penalty misses belongs to Gareth Southgate at UEFA Euro 1996 at Wembley Stadium, as he missed in the semifinal against Germany.

In 1998, it was Paul Ince and David Batty who missed penalties against Argentina in France at the World Cup.

After staying away from penalties for eight years, partly because of not making it out of the group stage at Euro 2000, the same fate faced the Three Lions at Euro 2004 in Portugal.

After a goal from Frank Lampard in extra time to send the quarterfinal against the host nation to penalties, David Beckham and Darius Vassell were both guilty of missing penalties in the England loss.

In 2006, it was deja vu all over again with Portugal being the opponents in the World Cup quarterfinal and English stars missing penalties again.

This time, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all failed to score and England was sent out of the tournament.

Fast-forward to this year's European Championships and England is in the knockout round as Group D winner and it starts knockout play against Italy on Sunday.

It is a scenario that English fans know all too well and, if England ends up in a penalty shootout, the ghosts of tournaments past will surely haunt fans and players alike.

The good news for England is that there is always a time to get rid of those penalty ghosts and change history.

That change of history may even see goalkeeper Joe Hart take a penalty if it is needed.

Although we will not know until Sunday or further down the road in the next two weeks if they will need penalties to advance, one thing is for sure: England fans will have the Three Lions' history of penalty shootouts on their mind until that history is changed.

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