I’m still on a little break from writing 90 second posts, but great writers keep coming forward. This time Alessandro Amasanti writes about penalties, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s rather excellent. Read then follow @agamasanti on twitter.
When it comes to football, I’ve always been uneasy with the clichéd use of the word ‘technically’.
‘He’s technically excellent with the ball’, ‘Brazil are much more technically advanced than their opposition’, ‘Stuart Downing is technically useless’.
Take out the ‘t’ word from each of those sentiments and they all mean exactly the same thing as when the offending eleven letters are included.
However, I’m about to instantly contradict myself. Spain and Italy in last Thursday’s Confeds (Get with it, granddad) semi-final demonstrated their technical superiority over England. The Three Lion’s continental cousins, bar one Leonardo Bonucci, gave a masterclass in executing spot kicks, consistently foxing the two best goalkeepers in the world to find the corners.
Penalty shoot outs are widely acknowledged as nothing more than a lottery, so going by that reckoning, England’s numbers must surely be due to come up. Either that, or the theory that converting a ball from twelve yards is pot luck must be balderdash.
A penalty is football in its truest form. A player trying to put the ball past a goalkeeper. I’ll take your point that pressure plays a part. I’ll take your point that it doesn’t always result in the best team progressing. Yet, to horribly misquote Brian Clough, you can take all these points and stick them in the biggest dustbin you can find.
A penalty shoot-out is no more a lottery than having a thirty yard shot is. If your team gets a pen in the 90 minutes, you’re so damn convinced you’re going to score you instantly celebrate regardless of the fact that anyone who’s anyone will tell you successful conversion is akin to the random selection of forty-nine coloured, numbered spheres from a plastic dome.
England can’t take penalties because the likes of Darius Vassell and Gareth Southgate are inferior to Xavi and Andrea Pirlo. If you’re good enough, you’ll score.
I think anyone with a modicum of sense would admit that of the fourteen that stepped up in Fortaleza, Bonucci was the least able with a ball at his feet. Spain’s biggest attacking threats, necessarily, didn’t all take one (Jesus Navas’ numbers last season show him to be little more than a glorified Adam Johnson) yet they’ve all got the ability to demonstrate a skill they’ve clearly honed by repetition when required.
If England want to win shoot-outs in future tournaments they need to start producing technically better players.
If England want to produce technically better players, they need to produce better players. Because in today’s modern game, technically means nothing, yet technique means everything.