Spain’s World Cup stars set 1,000 penalty homework to avoid another shootout heartbreak

Spain’s players have been ordered to take 1,000 penalties each over the last year – as Luis Enrique looks to make sure their World Cup dream does not end in another shootout heartbreak.

Enrique revealed how he instructed every potential member of his squad to hone their skills from 12 yards after they suffered the agony of being eliminated from the last World Cup and Euro 2020 in the cruellest of circumstances.

The Spain boss believes penalty shootouts are a test of skill and nerve rather than luck – and told his players that they must practise the art when they are training with their clubs. Enrique said: “One year ago, I gave the players some homework.

“I told them they must all take at least 1,000 penalties when they are working with their clubs. I am sure they all did their homework. Penalty shootouts are not a lottery. The outcome doesn’t just depend on luck. Taking a penalty in those circumstances is a moment of the highest pressure.

“So you need to be able to call on your technique and skill. Of course, you can’t recreate the pressure in training, but you can get better at taking penalties. The players have all been taking penalties in our training sessions and, of course, the goalkeepers play an important role as well, so we have also been training them.”

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Ferran Torres scored his penalty against Costa Rica

Ferran Torres scored his penalty against Costa Rica in the group stage
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Spain were beaten by hosts Russia on penalties four-and-a-half years ago and lost out to Italy in the Euros semi-finals. Spain face Morocco for a place in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Only eight nautical miles separate the coasts of the two nations and questions are being asked whether Spain will have the mental fortitude for the occasion. Enrique was angry to be asked if his men have what it takes after throwing away a lead in the draw with Germany and then seeing Japan hand them a shock defeat by coming from behind to win 2-1.

La Roja’s boss was also less than impressed when it was suggested Spain’s possession-based style was being exposed. Enrique said: “It is such a cliche to suggest that our team cannot handle setbacks.

“We have played 270 minutes at this tournament so far. When you include injury-time, it is probably 300 minutes. The only time when we haven’t been the superior team was in those 10 minutes against Japan, when they scored two goals.

“We don’t play on our own. Our opponents also play and I am sure there will be minutes against Morocco when they will be better than us. It’s another cliche to say we don’t play any long balls.

“Yes, we want to keep possession and build from the back, but if the best option is a long ball, then that has to be decided by the player on the pitch. Any other analysis of our game is just too basic.”

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