England hatch novel plan for penalties
BADEN BADEN, Germany, June 9 (Reuters) - England are using a ploy in training that would make every goalkeeper's World Cup penalty dream come true.
Beating a top-class keeper can be hard enough but England have given the ultimate soccer duel an extra twist by telling Paul Robinson where they will place the spot kick.
The unlikely tactic is rooted in England's traumatic experience at past tournaments, where shootout misses have bounced them out of World Cups in 1990 and 1998, along with Euro 96 and Euro 2004 in Portugal.
As he prepared for Saturday's Group B opener against Paraguay, Robinson told reporters: 'The lads get used to taking penalties against you - and you generally tend to know which way they like going.
'So at some stages we say to them 'Tell us which way you're going to go, we won't dive until you've kicked it'.
'It makes it harder for them to score - they really have to put it in the corners.'
Robinson, who saved a penalty for Tottenham Hotspur in last season's final Premier League game at West Ham United, is fully expecting to face penalties at the finals.
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson believes that if England go far at the World Cup, they will at some point face a shootout - and they clearly need to improve their spot kicks.
Frank Lampard has replaced David Beckham as penalty taker after the captain missed against Turkey in England's final Euro 2004 qualifier, France in their opening group game in Portugal and in the shootout against the hosts in the quarter-finals.
'You can practice penalties till the cows come home but it is different when you are out there in front of 60,000 people and the pressure is on,' Beckham said at their Buhlertal training ground.
'We will carry on practising but when it comes to a shootout, it is a different situation.
'As good as you can be at penalties, there is a chance the keeper can read you as much as you can strike it well.
'I don't mind taking penalties and I'm always quite confident at taking them. But Frank is the penalty-taker for Chelsea and that's why he is taking them for England.'
Worryingly for Eriksson, Lampard had a penalty saved in last week's 3-1 friendly win over Hungary at Old Trafford.
Worse still, striker Peter Crouch fared no better four days later when he ballooned a late spot kick in their 6-0 rout of Jamaica.
England can, of course, live with missing them in warm-ups. It is a world away from the sickening feeling that occurs when failure from the spot sends a team packing at a tournament.
Recalling their exit in Portugal, Lampard told reporters in Baden Baden: 'It was horrible to go out on penalties.
'It was horrible on the pitch at the end. It was horrible with the families that evening and it was horrible the next day when you packed your bags to go home.'