The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is just around the corner, meaning so too is the prospect of the dreaded penalty shootout.
Since shootouts were introduced in 1978, they have occurred 26 times at World Cup finals – you won’t need any reminding that England have lost all three they have participated in: the joint worst record alongside Italy.
In the last World Cup penalty shootout between Argentina and the Netherlands in Sao Paulo, Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero – saving two penalties to send his nation to the final.
Here, MM looks at Manchester-based players who could potentially have a decisive impact from 12 yards this summer, as Romero did four years ago.
Paul Pogba has only taken six penalties throughout his career so far, but he has scored five of them – giving him an 83 percent success rate.
Pogba’s club teammates Ashley Young and Romelu Lukaku cannot boast such a record. Young’s success rate is 63 percent as he scored five out of the eight penalties he taken during his time at Aston Villa, Lukaku has scored 11 of the 16 penalties he has taken meaning he has a 69 percent success rate.
Lukaku would most likely have had a better success rate if he took the penalties for Belgium, but it’s easy to understand why he doesn’t – regular spot kick taker Eden Hazard has scored 39 out of 44 career penalties giving the Chelsea star an 87 percent success rate from the spot.
Kevin De Bruyne, who plays with Lukaku and Hazard for Belgium, has only taken three penalties, two of which were for his national side. He dispatched both of these, but missed the only penalty he has taken for City in a 1-1 draw against Everton in October 2016.
Gabriel Jesus, who is expected to lead the line for pre-tournament favourites Brazil, has also taken three penalties but has only been successful with one of them.
Between them, Manchester-based players Pogba, Young, Lukaku, De Bruyne and Jesus have taken 36 penalties between them throughout their careers, which is three less than Sergio Aguero has scored. Aguero has a success rate of 81 percent from 12 yards, scoring 39 out of the 48 penalties he has taken.
Like Lukaku for Belgium though, Aguero is not the first choice penalty taker for Argentina. Despite Lionel Messi having a worse success rate from the spot than Aguero (77 percent), the five time Ballon d’Or winner is firmly in favour for Argentina when it comes to taking spot kicks.
Of the players at the World Cup, only former United marvel Cristiano Ronaldo has taken more penalties. Ronaldo, also with five Ballon d’Or titles to his name, has taken 118 penalties for United, Real Madrid and Portugal, scoring 103. This gives Ronaldo an 84 percent success ratio.
A hero for his country at the last World Cup, but injury has ruled Romero out of the World Cup this summer. Perhaps Argentina’s second-most important player after Messi, Romero will be a huge miss for his country as the United stopper has a 29 percent success rate on penalties he has faced throughout his career.
This is a slightly better success rate than David de Gea (27 percent). Spain’s undisputed number one and perhaps the best goalkeeper on the planet only conceded three goals in the nine matches he played for his country during qualification, keeping six clean sheets in the process. From his last ten penalties faced, though, De Gea has saved just one of them.
Recent history suggests that City goalkeeper Ederson is the best in the business when it comes to saving penalties. Although the Brazilian is battling for a place in goal with AS Roma’s Alisson Becker, the fact he has saved half of the last ten penalties he has faced stands Brazil in good stead should they reach a shootout with Ederson between the sticks.
Despite his recent record, his penalty success rate over the course of his career is 22 percent – less than Romero and De Gea.
Who do England want to face in a shootout? And who do they not want to face?
France lost the 2006 World Cup final on penalties, so the bad memories of 12 years ago could still be looming for Les Bleus.
France’s first choice penalty taker Antoine Griezmann, who lit up this year’s Europa League final, has just a 60 percent success ratio from the spot. He has missed six of the 14 penalties he has taken for club and country, including a crucial one in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid.
At the opposite end, Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been beaten by 59 of the 70 penalties he has faced throughout his career – only Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera has a worse record. So, despite England’s notoriously terrible record in shootouts, France may be the Three Lions’ most favourable opponent should the sides not be separated after extra-time.
Although it is unlikely, France’s group opponents Australia are a team who many will not want to take on should they face off with them in a shootout.
The Socceroos are managed by Bert van Marwijk, who led the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010. If Australia somehow manage to make it out of their group and play for penalties, Van Marwijk may fancy his chances of repeating his 2010 feat.
Huddersfield Town’s Aaron Mooy, along with former Premier League duo Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill, have taken 29 career penalties between them – scoring 27.
In goal, Brighton’s Mat Ryan has been successful with 37 percent of the 30 penalties he has faced – bettering Manuel Neuer’s record of 35 percent.
They may be 250-1 to win the World Cup, but those odds would probably shorten if the World Cup was decided solely on penalty shootouts…