It wouldn’t be a World Cup year without the English public fretting about the Three Lions’ chances from 12 yards.
Roy Hodgson’s side are a wholly realistic 33/1 to reign supreme in Brazil and it seems the former Fulham boss will have enough task merely navigating his way to the latter stages, with bwin currently rating his charges as 3/5 third-favourites to make it out of a tough Group D.
Should they emerge from their tricky mini-league, history suggests England – who have gone out on penalties in six of the last ten tournaments they’ve qualified for – will require some super sharp-shooting spotkickers.
Here are England’s five best options to make the walk forward from the halfway-line huddle in the event of a dreaded knockout-stage stalemate after 120 minutes.
England’s captain, 7/10 Premier League title favourites Liverpool’s talisman and leader and scorer of 11 penalties this season from 12 attempts. Gerrard should be first into the breach.
The former lower-league journeyman is by no means a certainty for the 23-man England squad, but if Lambert does make it to the samba jamboree, Hodgson must get him on the pitch in the event of extra-time being forced.
Lambert has slammed home each of the 34 penalties he’s taken since joining Southampton in 2009, a phenomenal record the Liverpudlian will be rightly proud of.
Football watchers have stopped wondering whether West Ham midfielder Noble – who made 20 appearances for England’s Under-21 side – will ever receive a full international call-up, but the 26-year-old probably justifies his place in Hodgson’s squad on penalty-taking ability alone.
Based on the percentage of spot-kicks successfully converted since 2009, Noble is the fifth-best penalty taker in Europe’s top five leagues, having missed just two since taking over 12-yard duties at Upton Park in 2007.
The former Wigan man can go two better than Noble as the third-best player from the spot in European club football, with 16 of his 17 Everton penalties sending Toffees fans into rapture.
Baines is nailed on for a place on the plane to Brazil and pressure has been building on Hodgson all season to start the 29-year-old ahead of Chelsea outcast Ashley Cole in England’s opening match against Italy.
Wigan boss Uwe Rosler was criticised following the Latics’ shootout loss to Arsenal recently, after saving regular spot-kicker Jordi Gomez – who had converted from 12 yards in normal time – for a final penalty that never came.
With this in mind, we’ve gone top heavy with England’s big-hitters in from the off, leaving a certain Manchester United striker to seal the deal.
Rooney may now defer to Robin van Persie from the spot at Old Trafford, but the Three Lions’ top scorer-in-waiting has struck home 17 penalties in his Man Utd career and has the medals to prove he’s a winner.