Penalty preparation the key for Pearce
Friday, 26 June, 2009
Head Coach Stuart Pearce pleased with ultimate outcome on Friday.
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Stuart Pearce hailed his England heroes after his side made it to the Euro 2009 Final following an epic penalty shoot-out win against Sweden.
It was a game fit for any occasion and, gloriously for England, the 12-yard curse was lifted.
Pearce said before the match he had practised penalties ever since England's 13-12 defeat to Holland in the semi-final of Euro 2007 and it paid off. Guillermo Molins missed the crucial sudden death penalty as Pearce's boys won 5-4 in an epic last four encounter.
Guillermo Molins missed the crucial sudden death penalty to spark wild celebrations in Gothenborg - now Pearce will turn his attentions to Germany in the Final.
"I said we needed to be prepared for penalties," Pearce said. "And I said we would win one. The thing we knew about the Sweden team was that they would be dogged. Their philosophy is 'if you get one, we will get one'."
It all looked to be going to plan when Martin Cranie's 15-yard drive gave England the lead inside the first minute. It got even better when Nedum Onuoha doubled the advantage and when Mattias Bjarsmyr put through his own net, Pearce's Lions were dreaming of Monday's Malmo Final.
But Sweden stirred into life after the break and a double from the tournament's top scorer Marcus Berg and a free-kick from Ola Toivonen crushed hopes of victory in regulation time. It wouldn't be an England match without drama, so the travelling hordes of fans probably knew it wasn't all over at half-time. Even so, not even the most ardent Swedish supporter could have envisaged such a turnaround.
"Credit to Sweden - their players, fans and their management. They worked tirelessly. It is not easy to come back from 3-0 down," Pearce added.
Memories of that marathon shoot-out defeat to Holland in Euro 2007 came flooding back as the full-time whistle blew. Surely Pearce's youngsters wouldn't put the fans through the pain of spot-kicks again? They would. A shootout showdown was almost avoided when Berg hit the bar with a header in the second period of extra time but once again, it came down to who held their nerve from the spot.
It looked to be the same old story when James Milner missed the first kick but following goals from Hart, Lee Cattermole, Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs, England, finally had won a penalty shootout.
And the final word goes to hero Pearce. Twice a penalty shootout victim as a player, he finally tasted success from the spot as a manager - and he's now looking to the Final.
He said: "I have to look at my players - they were great, I am so pleased. Joe Hart made a great save and although we created a mountain of problems, hopefully we can now go on and win the trophy."
England will have to win Euro 2009 without goalkeeping hero Hart and livewire attackers Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fraizer Campbell.
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