It seems practice really does made perfect, as midfielder Harvey Barnes revealed England had been rehearsing penalties non-stop ahead of their shootout defeat of Ivory Coast in the Toulon Tournament final.
David Brooks of Sheffield United struck on 14 minutes, which seemingly looked set to ensure the Young Lions would retain the trophy.
But Ivory Coast levelled with a penalty in the final minute, setting up a shootout.
- Toulon Tournament
- Saturday 10 June 2017
- Stade de Lattre, Aubagne, France
- By Michael Brown
England regrouped from that disappointment though, scoring all five spot-kicks to ensure they would take the trophy back across The Channel.
“We have been practising penalties in every training session, so I think all the boys were confident,” said Barnes, who scored in the shootout and was joint-top scorer in the tournament with four goals.
“They all knew they had to do their own job and put it away, which they did.
“It was heart-breaking to see the ref give the penalty and then see it go in, but as soon as that happens you have to get it out of your mind and regroup as a team, which I think we did really well.
“Everyone was nervous when it went to 1-1, but we picked back up and grafted through the penalties.
“All the boys are delighted with the result and retaining the trophy of course.”
With the England U20s team competing at the World Cup and U21s set to travel to Poland for the European Championship, coach Neil Dewsnip pieced an unfamiliar-looking squad together.
But Barnes says their togetherness was key to an ultimately successful campaign.
“At the beginning a lot of the boys didn’t know each other. There is a group that has been together for a while, but there’s six new caps, so the way we have all come together has been really good,” he added.
“There wasn’t as much pressure put on us to retain the title by Neil, but we put it on ourselves, which is good, it helped us to perform.
“There have been a few hiccups on the way, a cancelled flight and an early-morning fire alarm going off in our hotel, but we can laugh about it now. It brought everyone together.”
Barnes’ mum and dad – former striker Paul, whose former clubs include Burnley, Notts County and Doncaster Rovers – were in Aubagne for the final.
But he revealed his auntie and uncle had flown from the south of France to Greece 24 hours earlier and missed Barnes’ moment of glory.
“My mum and dad have been out and my auntie and uncle were out here, but they went on holiday to Greece yesterday so they had to watch this on a stream,” said Barnes.
“I’m heading over there to join them now, it will nice to have a good break after the tournament!
“I’m really pleased with how it’s gone. It’s my first England call up, so to make the impact that I have, I’m really pleased with that.
“The main thing is winning the tournament and as a team we’ve come together really well, as it’s a mixed age group. The team has been brilliant.
“I hope to get a few more call-ups if I can, but we’ll have to see what happens next season.”