So the English football team have made it through a knockout stage game. They have also successfully navigated their way through a penalty shoot out. They also have what has been labelled a more fortuitous route to the final. England are now into the quarter-finals where they face Sweden. Regardless of what happens next, I believe that they have won the hearts of the nation once again.
Obviously, the hope is that they bring it home, but I think that the reason that they have won the hearts of so many English fans is because of the style of football that they now play. This is conjunction with their success to date in the tournament compounded with their cure for their penalty shootout curse. A curse that includes having the worst senior penalty shootout record. This must have also subliminally been compounded by the fact that Gareth Southgate (Manager) was the player who missed the penalty in 1996 which resulted in England's tournament departure.
This takes me to the main aim of this blog, Harry Kane. Captain fantastic to date who has been said to love leading the team, who is the current leading goal scorer at the world cup and who scored another goal last night. The goal in regulation time was from the penalty spot and took the best part of 3 minutes to be taken.
This was due to initial consultation with VAR, followed by dispute from the Colombian players and a flurry of yellow cards. Within this period players pushed and shoved each other, they shouted at the referee, some 'protected' Harry Kane and other Colombian players chose try to sabotage the penalty spot.
In and amongst this chaos, Harry Kane appeared to remain calm. He collected the ball and avoided the heated situation that engulfed the referee which perhaps some captains would have been involved in. However, in this situation, as the penalty taker, his responsibility was to focus on taking his penalty. This must have felt like an eternity.
Players report that simply walking 50 metres during a penalty shootout feels like an eternity filled with anxiety and worry. A walk that would at most take a minute. Harry Kane had to wait 3 minutes to take this penalty.
It seems that much time and effort has gone into the preparation of England for such situations. I saw Jesse Lingard take Harry Kane away from the situation, in a way 'protecting' him. This would have allowed Harry Kane the opportunity to focus on the task at hand. It would have allowed him to maintain focus and concentration by not allowing external factors to influence him. In addition to this it would have filled him with confidence that fellow players wanted to see him be as successful as possible. These are key factors when taking a penalty. Remaining in control of the things that you can is vital to this process. Therefore, blocking out the uncontrollable factors is crucial.
The next point is how it appears that England are taken pages from many books. Books of successful athletes and teams. An example of this is how they have adopted a mentality of switching from red head back to blue head. These colours refer to the mentality of players at a particular moment in time. Red head refers to a situation where players are stressed, distracted and anxious, whereas blue head refers to when players are calm and task focused, much the same as Harry Kane was prior to taking his penalty.
I could sense a feeling that this mentality and mindset is present throughout the team. I say this because versus Colombia and Panama, there were ample opportunities to fly off the handle and react to the antics of their opponents, however they did not.
Perhaps this sort of approach is what has been needed all along. Sport psychology should be viewed as a skill to be enhanced and not only an answer to problems.