7th Jul 2018 | World Cup
Here We Go Again
The English nation awaits the first shot at a World Cup semi-final since 1990 with baited breathe. Could we handle another penalty shootout?! We may not have a choice against the dangerous Swedes.
Expectations that England’s name is on the World Cup need to be tempered massively for a whole host of reasons. But I’m still going to offer a positive spin on how I see Saturday going…in the end.
Sweden are in danger of being massively underrated by many, atlhough not Gareth Southgate fortunately. The Scandinavians topped the qualifying group featuring the Netherlands, then defeated Italy over two legs in a play-off, before winning Group F which contained Germany and Mexico.
The Three Lions still lack a couple of key commodities. They aren’t scoring enough or creating enough in open play and they are yet to keep a clean sheet in this tournament. But what they do have is plenty of heart.
This was aptly demonstrated in the thrilling shootout victory against Colombia and WilliamHill offer an enhanced best price 11/1 on England winning this quarter-final on penalties as well.
The experience from the last 16 will fill Southgate’s boys with confidence but I’m most encouraged by the marginal gains the former Palace, Villa and Boro captain has given the squad.
Small details which can give England the edge include Pickford handing the ball to each spot-kick taker to ensure they own the process. They also all rely on the goalkeeper-independent method which means they pick their spot in advance, stick to it, and trust in their technique to see them through, whatever the keeper does.
The hours of penalty practice done when players are tired at the end of training sessions means that England are recreating, to some extent, the situation they face after 120 minutes, and the muscle memory can see them through.
It’s a far cry from the days of Sven, and many other coaches, and perhaps history could repeat itself after just 4 days. Strap yourselves in.
Odds correct at time of publishing: 07:41 7th Jul, 2018 but subject to change