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England practice penalties

England’s key player in the Euro 2012 quarter-final in Kiev could be goalkeeper Joe Hart. Hart has been in excellent form for Premier League title-winners Manchester City, and for England, but the match against Italy will be the highest-profile game he has played for his country.

He will be in particularly harsh spotlight if the match goes to a penalty shootout. England have a woeful record when matches are decided by penalties. Looming particularly large in the national memory are the semi-final shootout defeats to Germany at the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96.

Manager Roy Hodgson says England will be prepared. "We have practised them already and use the time after training sessions regularly to practise some of those," he said. "We'll obviously take it even more seriously now, working on that aspect of the game. Of course, you can practise penalty shootouts until the cows come home but it's really all about composure, confidence and an ability to block everything out and forget the occasion. You hope the practice makes a big difference but it boils down to the strength of mind of the individual. That's what determines whether you score or don't score."

Chelsea’s Ashley Cole proved his cool in May’s Champions League final shoot-out, but Hodgson knows that taking a penalty for England is a whole different kind of pressure. "With the England national team the past is always going to weigh heavily," he said, "because everything we do today is being compared with something that happened in the past."

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