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Reality Check: Are England terrible at penalty shootouts?

Graphic showing England's record in penalty shoot-outs

Reality Check verdict: Yes, England are terrible at penalty shootouts, and the senior men’s team has the worst record in the world.

England’s under-21s lost their European Championship semi-final against Germany on Tuesday, 4-3 on penalties.

It brought back memories of previous penalty defeats by England, which may give the impression that the country is not very good at shootouts.

That impression is confirmed by a look at the data.

England’s senior men’s team, senior women’s team and men’s under-21s have a record of won two, lost 12.

Penalty shootouts were introduced in the 1976 European Championships and the 1978 World Cup. But England’s men did not take part in one until 1990.

The senior men were knocked out of the World Cups in 1990, 1998 and 2006 on penalties and the European Championships in 1996, 2004 and 2012.

Their only win was against Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 96, a tournament in which they were beaten on penalties in the semi-finals.

No team has lost more penalty shootouts at World Cups and European Championships than England (Italy have lost the same number, but they’ve won more).

Making up the numbers was England’s defeat by Belgium on penalties in the King Hassan II International Cup Tournament in Morocco, which as a warm-up before France 98 purists might decide to exclude. Drawn matches were decided by penalties (without extra time) to ensure there would be an eventual winner, although the structure of the tournament was that each of the four teams played only two matches.

The senior women have taken part in three shootouts and lost them all.

They lost the final of the 1984 European Championships to Sweden, the play-off match for seventh place against China at the complicated Algarve Cup in 2005 and to France in the quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup.

The men’s under-21s competed in, and lost, one of the more epic shootouts of all time, 13-12 to Holland in the semi-final of the 2007 European Championships – the same stage at which they were knocked out on penalties on Tuesday.

But the under-21s do have a penalty shootout win to their names, having beaten Sweden 5-4 on penalties, also at the semi-final stage, of the European Championships of 2009.


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