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Spot kick professional highlights England’s ‘shootout improvements’ in win

From assigned penalty buddies to no interlocking of arms, a sports psychologist takes a deep dive into the subtle but effective innovations Gareth Southgate made following England’s Euro 2020 shoot-out defeat.

The Three Lions advanced to the final four at the European Championship on Saturday evening after being taken to penalties by Switzerland.

Manuel Akanji’s miss proved to be decisive with Trent Alexander-Arnold completing the 5-3 sudden death win that sets up a semi-final clash against the Netherlands

On Sunday, Mail Sport took a look into the secrets of England’s penalty shootout success.

Now, the world’s leading expert on spot kicks, Geir Jordet, has unearthed four key changes Southgate made to his side’s penalty shoot-out process compared to their loss against Italy.

Gareth Southgate made a number of key changes following England’s Euro 2020 defeat to Italy on penalties

Firstly, each penalty taker was assigned a ‘buddy’ who would meet the players before they reached the halfway line.

Jordet said: ‘This was was painfully lacking in 2021, when Rashford walked 50m alone after his missed shot, while facing a wall of teammates in an interlocked formation as if communicating US vs YOU.’

Secondly, as opposed to most teams in the world, England ‘refreshingly do not interlock their arms in the mid circle’.

Jordet explained: ‘This looser formation enables flexibility to offer each other functional social support, which is more important than APPEARING to be supportive.’

Another change made by Southgate was to have just the coaching staff and 11 penalty takers in a huddle after the full-time whistle.

At Euro 2020, it was clear to see that Southgate looked overwhelmed by the number of people there.

Lastly, another tactic Southgate appeared to employ was Jordan Pickford handing the ball over to the penalty taker and then walking into the box with them to ‘create a 2v1 situation’ against the keeper.

One new tactic was to assign each player a 'buddy' who would meet them as they walked back

One new tactic was to assign each player a ‘buddy’ who would meet them as they walked back

The Three Lions advanced to the final four at the European Championship on Saturday evening after their win

The Three Lions advanced to the final four at the European Championship on Saturday evening after their win

Pickford has now saved four of the 14 penalties he has faced in shoot-outs at major tournaments and he has his ‘cheat sheet’ water bottle to thank.

Pickford followed his list for three of the four Swiss spot-kicks, only ignoring it for the second penalty, taken by Fabian Schar.

His cheat sheet instructed him to ‘fake right, dive left’ but he ended up doing the opposite as the Newcastle defender found the net. Had he stuck to his list he may have also been able to save it.

England, meanwhile, were perfect with all five of their penalties as Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Ivan Toney scored before Alexander-Arnold sent Yann Sommer the wrong way to seal their place in the semi-finals.