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If Roy Hodgson's side can escape from a tough group draw, then most England fans could be forgiven for feeling that an exit via the dreaded penalty shoot-out is odds-on in the World Cup betting. The Three Lions have been tamed by spot kicks in three of their last four appearances at major international tournaments, with their last shoot-out victory coming on home soil in Euro 96, only to be eliminated in the next round (on penalties).
With that in mind, WhoScored.com looks at the players most likely to step up if such an eventuality comes to pass. England's last exit on penalties came at the hands of Italy two years ago, with Ashleys Young and Cole the unfortunate pairing that failed to convert. Neither have made the squad this time around, though both of England's scorers from the spot on the day (Rooney and Gerrard) are still likely to play an integral role.
In a promising turn of events, each of the top four Premier League penalty scorers since the last World Cup in South Africa are in Hodgson's squad. Steven Gerrard (15), Wayne Rooney (13), Frank Lampard (13) and Leighton Baines (11) are also joined by Rickie Lambert, whose record from the spot throughout his career is well renowned. The journeyman forward has netted six from six in his two seasons in England's top tier thus far.
We start with Frank Lampard, who has taken 21 penalties in the league and Champions League combined over the past four seasons. The Chelsea man actually has the worst conversion rate from said spot kicks (76.2%) of our five chosen takers here, having failed to register with five of his attempts. The veteran midfielder sees his penalties saved in the bottom corners relatively often (two to the right, three to the left), with his placement perhaps coming into question. When he opts for power however, his success rate is far better, scoring with all seven of his efforts down the centre of the goal.
When combining league and Champions League efforts, Wayne Rooney has also amassed 21 over the past four campaigns. His conversion rate is slightly superior to that of Lampard (81%), having failed to score just four in comparison. The United man is clinical when hitting the target but has failed to test the keeper altogether with three of his attempts, which is a worrying tally. He's had just one penalty saved in comparison and, unlike the others here, he does have a clear favourite spot. Rooney has scored ten out of ten penalties when aiming low to the left.
Steven Gerrard has taken 18 penalties over the past four Premier League campaigns, 11 of which came in the season gone by, so he's had plenty of practice of late. The Liverpool captain missed just one of said efforts in 2013/14, hitting the woodwork, but has failed to score with three in total (an 83.3% conversion rate). England's skipper, unlike Lampard, always goes for placement, with none of his attempts aimed down the centre of the goal. Much like Rooney, when he works the keeper he tends to score.
Leighton Baines may well be England's best bet in a shoot-out based on his Premier League stats. Over the same time period the left-back has taken 11 penalties, scoring them all. Perhaps most impressively, he doesn't seem to have a favoured spot, though he too looks to place his efforts more often than not. He's converted four of four penalties aiming to the bottom left, but also three of three to the top right. Essentially, Baines is more than capable of picking his spot.
Like the Everton man, Rickie Lambert is yet to miss a Premier League penalty. He too has the handy knack of being able to go either way without compromising on the result. The forward is also confident enough to aim high, where penalties are often hardest to save but also easy to misjudge. Three of Lambert's six penalties have been dispatched into the top corners.
Of course, it's all well and good having top penalty takers but if your keeper isn't up to the task then your chances will suffer. Joe Hart will have the burden of keeping opposition efforts at bay should a penalty shoot-out be required, so it's worth looking at his record too.
England's number one has faced 11 penalties in the league and Champions League combined since the last World Cup, making the Three Lions jersey his own in that time. He's kept out three of those spot-kicks and certainly has a respectable record when penalties are aimed low, saving three of eight. If opponents are brave enough to aim high (and accurate) progression may be out of Hart and co.'s reach.
All things considered, England are well equipped when it comes to spot-kick specialists - perhaps more so than ever. It's something that Roy Hodgson will have had in the back of his mind when choosing his squad. The likes of Baines, Lampard and Lambert, for example, may not have been in every fans' desired 23. The fact that they are should at least give the Three Lions a decent chance if penalties do decide England's fate once again. Getting them all on the pitch at the same time may be the first port of call if a game looks like going the distance.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.
There's one point the article misses; the GK. As bad as England's penalty takers have been, the biggest reason for losing is the GK. And we're still stuck with that donkey Hart.- meanonsunday