Gareth Southgate preparing England to avoid penalty pain at World Cup

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Gareth Southgate knows all about penalty shootout pain but says luck is no excuse, which is why England have been studying and developing strategies since March.

After finishing runners-up in Group G, the Three Lions head to Moscow on Tuesday to take on Colombia in a tough-looking last-16 World Cup clash.

England may have to go the distance in their bid to win a first knockout match since 2006, meaning their vulnerability from the spot could become clear once more.

The senior team have lost six of their seven penalty shootouts at major tournaments, including the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany when Southgate missed his key spot-kick.

But the former defender is determined his England side will be better prepared as they gear up for the World Cup knockout phase.

Asked if he has learned from Euro 96, manager Southgate said: “Absolutely, no question. I have had a couple of decades thinking it through.

Gareth SOUTHGATE 2

“In defence of the staff there at the time, penalty shootouts weren’t as regular then.

“The depth of knowledge and understanding, we didn’t have as much information as we do now.

“FA Cup ties went to two, three replays so we weren’t in those situations as often as we are now.

“Definitely it’s not about luck. It’s not about chance. It’s about performing a skill under pressure.

“There are individual things you can work on within that. We have studied it.

“There are things that can be unhelpful in terms of their preparation for players at that moment.

“As a staff knowing who is in charge of which bits, who needs to get out of the way, who can speak with clarity to the players.

“There is lots we can do to own the process and not be controlled by it.”

Southgate volunteered for his penalty 22 years ago but realises it is “probably braver” not to take one if you are not confident.

England’s coaching staff have regularly updated a “more considered list” of takers based on training, meaning they already have an idea about the order.

Individual processes and techniques have been focused upon in preparation, as well as the collective approach to a shootout.

“Making sure that there’s a calmness, that we own the process, that it’s not just decisions that are made on the spur of the moment or even behaviours around the team,” Southgate added.

“That it’s calm, the right people are on the pitch, the right staff are on the pitch. It doesn’t become too many voices in people’s heads. We’ve looked at a lot of things in detail.

“We’ve finalised that in the lead up to this game as well. I think that’s all you can do. You keep preparing in the right way possible and try and affect the things you can.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold laughed and shook his head when asked if Southgate had been taking any penalties in training but said “everyone’s working hard” to be ready.

“Obviously you don’t want it to get to penalties but it’s football at the end of the day and nothing really goes to plan when you’re out there on the pitch,” the England right-back said.

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Spain must strap on their shooting boots and other key tactics ahead of Russia clash

Chris Bailey 30/06/2018
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A bonus game this may be for Russia but Spain are not a team to be feared based on the evidence so far.

In one sense, an appearance in the knockout rounds is mission accomplished for the World Cup hosts. In another, there should be no limits in a tournament that has already produced a series of shocks.

Check out the key tactics ahead of Sunday’s round-of-16 encounter below.

GOING LONG

Diego Costa.

Diego Costa.

Rumours are that Fernando Hierro is encouraging his side to let fly more often from the edge of the area after too much dilly-dallying in the opposition third – a common complaint against Spain.

Hierro will be loath to make too many changes, so don’t expect Marco Asensio and his jackhammer of a left foot to displace anyone in the starting XI.

There could be a slight shift in mindset, though, especially as Igor Akinfeev has a chequered history of dealing with potshots on the big occasion (see his mistake versus South Korea four years ago).

Despite typically hogging possession over their three games, a return of 16 shots on target can hardly be described as peppering the goal.

Like David De Gea’s howler against Cristiano Ronaldo proved, if you don’t ask you don’t receive.

POSSESSIVE NATURE

Denis Cheryshev.

Denis Cheryshev.

Spain controlled 78 per cent of the ball against Iran and no tactics manual will ever endorse giving up that much.

Team Melli, however, did nullify La Roja’s effectiveness in close spaces with narrow, compact banks in a 4-5-1 formation – and for the most part it worked.

Their mistake was to be so conservative in attack until Spain scored – admittedly fortuitously – as Sardar Azmoun started to impose a physical presence and Mehdi Taremi had a glorious chance in the end.

Russia also have a rough-and-ready talisman in Artem Dzyuba and while this team won’t set any land speed records, they have covered the most distance on average than any other side in the tournament so far.

That should help on the counter-attack and Denis Cheryshev on the wing is one outlet from which to spring a riposte. Russia should not make the same mistake as others – they must take the fight to Spain.

FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Nacho of Spain celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Nacho.

Russia will be casting an extremely beady eye over the performance of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. Their reputations are far more iron-clad than their general play, with their powers of recovery on the slide and their positional radar seemingly knocked askew.

To counter this, there is talk of Hierro beefing up the midfield alongside Sergio Busquets, adding Nacho and Koke for some added ballast.

It would be a direct reply to their struggles against Iran and though Nacho does not offer the same guile as Hierro’s other options, he is still a clean distributor of the ball and should be able to take the edge off Russia’s physicality.

Busquets was at times overrun in the draw with Morocco, with Andres Iniesta and Thiago Alcantara often operating much higher up the pitch. Neutralising Russia’s greatest strength without sacrificing too much of Spain’s own would be the thinking here for Hierro.

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Watch: Roberto Martinez complimentary of Kevin De Bruyne's impact on Belgium

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Kevin De Bruyne and Belgium will meet Japan in the Round of 16.

Kevin De Bruyne has yet to truly shine like he’s capable of at the World Cup yet, but Belgium boss Roberto Martinez believes he’s still been essential to the team’s success.

The midfielder has one assist through two games, with Belgium going a perfect 3-0 in the group stages.

“He has been a little bit a top performer that has not been highlighted yet. And he’s essential for the way that we want to play,” Martinez said of De Bruyne.

Martinez also spoke of Belgium’s confidence going into the last 16. See his full comments below.

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