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The penalty shoot-out is the greatest set piece of sporting drama ever conceived. Cruel, arbitrary, tortuous and unfair, it has also presented the England football team with a new and infinitely more punishing manner in which to lose. Three times in the past decade the nation has sat on the edge of its collective sofa and watched the seemingly inevitable unfold as Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince and David Batty have selected the wrong shots in the lottery of international championship shoot-outs.
Except it's not a lottery. There is an art to scoring penalties, which calls upon a unique combination of physical prowess and psychological strength. In the corridor of truth that leads from the penalty spot to the goal-line, a succession of English footballers have had to confront not only the opposing goalkeeper but the hopes and dreams of fans and fellow countrymen and, of course, themselves. Score and few will remember; miss and - as the above list of names testifies - no one will forget.
Talking to some of the game's most successful players and managers, the question the book seeks to address is simple: can England overcome their fear of the penalty?
- Random House, February 2011
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