Manchester United and Sunderland contested a woeful penalty shootout at Old Trafford in the second leg of the League Cup Semi-Final.
England have never been particularly good at penalties, have they? In fact, heartbreak against Argentina, Portugal twice, Germany and Italy account for five tournament exits in the last eight that England have qualified for – a frightening statistic.
Therefore, should Premier League sides reach a penalty shootout in the cup competitions, why would they select English-born players over foreigners when the statistics sway against those born on the British Isles?
As Sunderland and Manchester United demonstrated perfectly during their League Cup Semi-Final shootout at Old Trafford – penalty success and Englishmen don’t go hand in hand.
Sunderland’s Craig Gardner was the first Englishman to step up, blazing so high over the bar it nearly ended up in the second tier. Following up was Danny Welbeck, a man likely to be named in England’s World Cup squad. The penalty was woeful, again failing to even hit the target.
Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher became the first man to score from the spot as he drilled the ball low and hard into the corner, giving Mannone no chance.
Then Marcos Alonso became the next man to score, beautifully curling it beyond David De Gea – nothing short of what you’d expect from a man who came through the Real Madrid ranks.
Following an Adnan Januzaj miss, South Korean international Ki Sung-Yeung gave Sunderland the lead for the first time during the shootout, coolly sending De Gea the wrong way. Manchester United and England utility man Phil Jones was next on the list. Yet, once again an Englishman failed to even hit the target as Jones thrashed his spot-kick over the bar to the delight of the Sunderland supporters.
So, Adam Johnson then had the chance to make himself a hero and seal Sunderland a Wembley spot. Another miss – well, at least he hit the target this time though right?
Were these penalties a sign of things to come this summer in Brazil?
With respect to Sunderland pair Johnson and Gardner, they aren’t likely to be representing their country at the World Cup, however Jones and Welbeck are expected to be there. As for Januzaj in the future, who knows!
With this shootout as a gentle reminder to the current English penalty taking talent, perhaps Roy Hodson will abandon his containment tactics against the World’s leading nations as the probability of England progressing through a penalty shootout remains as slim as ever.
image: © Ethan.K