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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Dusseldorf Arena

With penalties like these, England need not worry about the 120 minute preambles anymore

Euro 2024 Championships Quarter-Final

England (0) 1 Saka 80

Switzerland (0) 1 Embolo 75

England win 5-3 on pens

So who is afraid of penalties now?

Maybe the great evolution of English football has finally led us to this logical endgame. It has taken more than 30 years but we've finally discovered how to conquer the dark arts of penalty taking.

Seriously, was it ever in doubt once we knew this stalemate would have to be decided from the spot? It seems we really needed the David Batty big tournament misses and repeated loser-mentality losses to understand that this thing needed fixing.

These days, hardly any team ever wins a competition without having to battle through a shoot out along the way.

Finally, England have experts in the dead-eyed, stony-hearted business of firing in from 12 yards. And what a collection of takers Gareth Southgate has to call upon. Playing for draws is no longer a recipe for disaster when you have such confident young guns in the ranks who are unencumbered by the past.

Cole Palmer. Did he have the iced veins we always see at Stamford Bridge? Of course he did. Was Jude Bellingham going to ruin his perfect, title and Champions League winning season by missing? Of course not. Was man of the match and equalising saviour Bukayo Saka going to pass up the chance to gain redemption for missing in the 2021 final? No way.

Then there was Ivan Toney. Bit part player, yet somehow again vital. He laid on the winner for Harry Kane in the previous get-out-of-jail triumph over Slovakia. Here he had his gift of a moment. An opportunity to execute the greatest of his skill sets. And that technique made an easy switch from the Gtech to the white heat of international competition in Dusseldorf.

And what an incredible technique it is. Eyes fixed almost menacingly on the keeper Yann Sommer. Trusting his feet to do the business without looking at the ball. Cojones hombre. Cojones.

And then came Trent. A difficult tournament rendered irrelevant by his hunger for the big moment. He thrashed home to complete a perfect set of five - sending England fans in the ground into paroxysms of joy. Indian and Pakistan fans many miles away in Edgbaston - of subcontinent origin - were famouly sharing the moment of elation.

And then there was Jordan Pickford. Not quite as dark artsing it as Emi Martinez for Argentina in the World Cup final or Bruce Grobellar for Liverpool in the1984 European Cup final in Rome. But he knew how to delay, disrupt and get in the head of Manuel Akanji.

The Swiss Man City defender has had a superb tournament but looked psyched out as Pickford made him wait by engaging in a slow conversion with ref Daniele Orsato of Italy. The save felt almost inevitable. England have learned so much.

So now, in Germany, the byword for penalty taking efficiency, the Three Lions came of age. This was even more dead eyed and certain than the ground breaking triumph over Colombia in the 2018 World Cup. They did not even need the contribution of Kane among the takers. He was withdrawn before the end and not eligible to take one. That would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

England weren't that great again. Southgate only made changes once his side had fallen behind with little time to save themselves. Maybe it doesn't really matter when the endgame is now a source of strength.

So roll on Holland in Dortmund on Wednesday. And let's hope for penalties once more.


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