I DON’T want to sound like an arrogant know-it-all here but I was sure Harry Kane was going to score his first penalty against France — and I was just as certain he was going to miss his second.
When I watch a match on TV, I can tell you whether a player is going to be successful with a spot-kick, almost 100 per cent of the time.
GettyHarry Kane missed his second penalty against France – and it proved costly[/caption]
I’ve been taking penalties for years and like anyone who’s done the job regularly, I’ve missed a fair few.
When I watched England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by France, I thought Kane looked laser-focused for that first penalty, even though there was a long delay and he chose to re-spot the ball.
Of course, he hammered it home in trademark fashion.
But for the second, something wasn’t right about his breathing and his eyes were everywhere. I wasn’t surprised when he skied it.
I’d love to know what his heart rate was. My guess is a steady 85 to 100 beats per minute for the first one and as much as 145 to 160 for the second.
None of this is meant as a dig at Kane — anything but.
He is now England’s joint-highest goalscorer of all time and one of the most consistent penalty-takers you will ever see.
I’ve heard from someone at Spurs that if Harry has a match on Saturday, he’ll have decided where he is going to stick any penalty kick by the Tuesday.
What he probably won’t have done is think about the prospect of a second penalty in the same match.
Only two or three times in my career have I taken two spot-kicks in the same game.
Just a couple of months ago, at Hull, I scored one penalty then ballooned the second one.
Taking a second penalty can really scramble your mind.
And I’m talking Hull v Birmingham in the Championship when we were winning 2-0.
Not England v France in a World Cup quarter-final, late in the game, when Kane would surely have been thinking, “If I miss this, we’re out.”
He’d have been feeling a nation willing him to score and the whole world watching him.
Something wasn’t right about his breathing and his eyes were everywhere. I wasn’t surprised when he skied it.
Troy Deeney on Harry Kane’s penalty miss
The pressure, the spotlight, the responsibility of taking that second one must have been immense.
Then there is the fact Kane was up against Hugo Lloris, his friend and team-mate of ten years, a guy he will have taken thousands of penalties against — that is an added complication which will have played with his mind.
There is nothing like the pressure of taking a penalty. It is the loneliest feeling in football.
Even if there’s a strong camaraderie in your team, this is all on you.
As a footballer, especially as a striker, so much of what you do is instinctive and based on good technique — but not when it comes to stepping up from 12 yards.
Then it has far more to do with mentality — and the psychology of it is fascinating.
I’ve had plenty of team-mates who have told me that taking penalties is easy. And on the training ground, it is.
MY TOP TIPS FOR EURO 2024
I HOPE Gareth Southgate stays as England boss and leads them into Euro 2024 — after going deep in three successive tournaments, he has earned the right to decide on his future.
But I’d still like to see England being more positive. Here are three players I think can make an impact at the next Euros . . .
England didn’t have a genuine like-for-like back-up for Harry Kane in Qatar and Brentford’s Toney is the best long-term candidate.
He is also the only Englishman better at taking penalties than the captain.
Three Lions are short of left-backs and Toney’s Bees team-mate is a great option — excellent going forward but also dependable in defence.
Crystal Palace’s forward is a real livewire and could be Raheem Sterling’s long-term successor.
But when you’re taking a penalty in a match, even a routine league game, you have so much time to think — a minute, sometimes two or more.
It can feel like an out-of-body experience, like it’s not really you, almost as if you’re looking down on yourself.
You start thinking whether your family are watching, all kinds of things.
If that happens, you have to reset yourself. Breathing techniques help.
One I learned was from the SAS, designed for when they plunge into extremely cold water — four short breaths, four long breaths. That can help.
Probably the most high-pressure penalty I’ve taken was for Watford against Wolves in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 2019, when we were 2-1 down in the 94th minute with the chance to force extra-time.
It’s still not a World Cup quarter-final but, for my club and myself, that was a massive moment.
MORE PRACTICE AHEAD
There was a huge delay before I took that one. And I suddenly felt my left leg trembling uncontrollably.
That has never happened to me before or since. I had to stamp my leg down three or four times to get rid of the trembling before I focused.
I scored and we ended up winning 3-2, but the experience of missing a penalty — especially one that costs your team — hits you in the guts like nothing else.
As soon as Kane is back at training, I feel certain he will be practising penalties even more than usual.
Kane faces a two-week wait before his next match, at Brentford on Boxing Day.
He will wish it was sooner, just to get that next goal, to score that next penalty. Only then can he even begin to get that miss out of his system.
APHarry Kane comforted by manager Gareth Southgate[/caption]