NIGHTMARES: England manager Gareth Southgate probably still has sleepless nights after missing a penalty against Germany 25 years ago. AFP Photo
So England will play their old foe Germany in the last 16 of the European Championship, desperate not to pay the penalty as they have in previous big meetings with their rivals.
It may be difficult to believe, but England have not beaten Germany in the knock-out stages of an international tournament since 1966 – the year of their only World Cup triumph.
Thankfully, for reasons I’ve explained in the past, I won’t be back in Blighty for the big game and instead will watch it from the comfort of my home some 6,000 miles away. Only if, of course, I can be bothered staying up at such an ungodly hour.
England fans will be desperate not to repeat the mammoth failures of years gone by.
In 1970, as defending World Cup champions, England threw away a two-goal lead to lose to West Germany in the quarter-finals.
Italia 1990 saw England lose this time on penalties to West Germany in the semis. Six years later at Wembley, they were knocked out of the Euros again by reunified Germany, and again on penalties.
Most recently, Fabio Capello’s England were hammered 4-1 by Joachim Low’s Germany at the 2010 World Cup — at the same last-16 stage as next Tuesday’s Wembley meeting.
So will the German jinx strike again late on Tuesday night?
If the match does end in a draw after full and extra time, and penalties are required to decide who progresses, then it’s fair to say England will be the underdogs.
I don’t know what it is about penalty shoot-outs against Germany, but England seem to go to pieces faster than a smashed bottle of Bavarian Pilsner.
The irony of course this year, is Gareth Southgate, the manager leading England, is the player who back in 1996 missed one of the penalty kicks that led to the German victory.
After that defeat and the previous penalty blunder six years earlier, many of the England players insisted that when it comes to a shoot-out, it falls into the hands of Lady Luck to decide who will progress. Total nonsense.
German players, on the other hand, at the time talked about how they would regularly practise taking penalties just in case a shoot-out was required. It seems practice made perfect.
However, I don’t think any amount of practice will help England as I can’t see the game needing a penalty shoot-out.
England have finished group winners but their performances have not exactly set the world alight. Just two goals in 1-0 wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic, either side of a drab draw with Scotland, was enough to see them progress.
Germany, it has to be said, haven’t been anywhere near their best in the group stages, except maybe against Portugal who they beat by four goals to two. But they do tend to up their game the longer tournaments last.
England have home advantage, and if Harry Kane gets his act together they could finally put to rest their Germany hoodoo.
But if they are to progress, I feel they must be victorious in normal time, extra time at a push. Because if it does boil down to a penalty shoot-out, then sorry England, my money’s on Germany. VNS