England loses to Italy in penalty shoot-out jinx
KIEV, Ukraine (AP):
It was the same old penalties heartache for England. This time, though, there was no hard-luck story to accompany the loss.
Defeat by Italy in the European Championship quarter-finals made it six losses in seven tournament shoot-outs as England's curse struck again yesterday.
Outclassed and outplayed comprehensively by Italy, Roy Hodgson's side clung on to a 0-0 draw. But in Kiev, there were no near misses, no decisions by the referee to bemoan, just a timid display from a weary team.
And one that's going home today.
"We might have to accept that we weren't quite good enough to win it over 120 minutes," Hodgson said. "Penalties is the same road we have been down before."
The only victory when England players have been put on the spot from 12 yards came in the Euro '96 quarter-finals against Spain.
The English penalty jinx started in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup against West Germany and the unified Germans ousted them at the same stage in Euro '96. Argentina was the shoot-out victor in the second round at the 1998 World Cup, and Portugal ousted England at the quarter-finals at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
"It's obviously a hard way to go out," England striker Wayne Rooney said. "And it's maybe happened too many times now."
How different it might have been in Kiev as Sunday turned to Monday.
Rooney put England 2-1 in front in the shoot-out after Riccardo Montolivo missed his penalty.
But England's dreams soon ended up in ashes.
Both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed to score as the Italians converted their penalties, allowing Alessandro Diamanti to net the decisive kick that secured a semi-final with Germany.
"Penalty-taking has become a bit of an obsession for us, and those players have done extremely well," Hodgson said. "But you can't reproduce the tension, you can't reproduce the nervousness, and you can't reproduce the occasion (in training). The sort of cool, calculated way that (Andrea) Pirlo had the confidence and chipped the goalkeeper is something you either have as a player or you don't. There is no amount of training or coaching that can teach a player that.
"We saw Ashley Cole take a penalty in the Champions League final. We have seen Ashley Young convert penalties for Manchester United and Watford. We were confident we had five very good penalty takers. Unfortunately, two missed."
England's tourist board made light of more shoot-out misery on Twitter, writing: "England lose on penalties. For more on our culture and traditions go to visitengland.com."