London (AFP) – Gareth Southgate has told his England stars to place extra focus on penalty practice as he sets his sights on winning the World Cup.
Southgate’s side were beaten on penalties by Italy in the European Championship final last year.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed from the spot in the painful defeat at Wembley.
Southgate, who missed the key spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final shoot-out loss to Germany, believes the key to penalty success is skill learned by repeated practice.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Ivory Coast at Wembley, the England boss made it clear that small details will be decisive when the World Cup gets underway in Qatar in November.
“We have gone into various details with the players of where we can improve upon to be world champions,” Southgate told reporters.
“We didn’t have a chance to do that in such detail in the autumn as we had to get straight on to the focus of qualifying, so we felt this camp was a good time to start that. Penalties has been part of that.
“What is apparent, in terms of regular penalty takers for their club, we really only have Harry Kane, James Ward-Prowse.
“When we played Italy, their top five had taken more than 40 penalties in competitive matches. Kane is at that level and Rashford is next at 20.
“So we will have to view that differently than just accept they are going to get practice at their clubs and they will be able to come in and that is the challenge we have set with some individual work.
“We think that is the right thing to do and, yes, it feels maybe they would think it is a bit early to do that, but essentially, if you take matchdays out and the day after a match, you are probably talking about 20 training days between now and that situation happening in a knock-out stage.”
England were World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and Euro 2020 runners-up, but they remain without a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
Southgate says he and his backroom team are analysing everything they can in pursuit of glory in Qatar.
“We have been consistently in the top five in the world for the last three or four years,” Southgate said.
“We want to go further, but there are people right on our tail. That is the way it is going to be.
“We have got to make sure we are on point with everything and open-minded enough to anything that might make us better.”
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