Saturday 08 October 2016, 20:04

England's penalty heroine turns the page

England and penalties. It is a subject that, over the years, has been the subject of books, documentaries and endless hours of discussion and debate.

Yet if the humble spot kick has become something of a national neurosis, it is little wonder. Between 1990 and 2012, the Three Lions exited now fewer than six major tournaments as a result of their inability to convert from 12 yards.

The consequence of those failures is that, whenever an English player - in any competition, at any level - prepares to take a penalty, smiles and nervous looks are exchanged. And everyone, of course, is thinking the same thing.

Everyone, that is, except Georgia Stanway. The Manchester City forward was not even born for the first three of the aforementioned shootout defeats, and has a refreshingly straightforward attitude to the subject. "With penalties," she told, "all that matters is that they go in."

Stanway, though, did not merely score the two spot-kicks that saw off Brazil and took England through to the Jordan 2016 quarter-finals. Her spot-kicks were powerful, precise and directed into the top right and left-hand corners - an 'unsaveable zone' according to scientific research published in 2014. There is, though, an inevitable risk to hitting high and hitting hard. And even Stanway will not commit to taking the same approach should she be presented with the opportunity again.

I definitely don't go out to put them in the top corner every time.

"I wouldn't say that's how I normally take them," she said. "But then I suppose they weren't normal penalties. I definitely don't go out to put them in the top corner every time though.

"I'm just glad I was able to put them away and help the team today because we wanted this so much. We don't want to go home - we definitely don't want to go back to school - so hopefully we can stay in this tournament for as long as possible. And although I scored the goals, everyone played their part - we really deserved the win, and deserve to go through."

For all that Stanway sought to downplay the significance of her contribution, she did set a new record, becoming the first player to score two penalties in a single U-17 Women's World Cup match. And it was the second of them, having converted the first so stylishly, that caused her the most uncertainty.

"When you've taken one already, there are a lot of things in the back of your mind," she explained. "'Do I go the same way or do I change it up? And what's the keeper expecting?' It definitely adds a few extra things to think about. But once you step forward it's just a case of clearing your mind and making sure you put it in the net."

That, of course, was exactly where the ball ended up. But it did make a stop along the way, rattling off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing down on the turf and up into the roof of the net. "For a second, I did worry," admitted the 17-year-old with a laugh. "But it went in and, again, that definitely makes it a good penalty for me!"

For her and for an entire nation.