Football: England seek help for World Cup mind games

Football: England seek help for World Cup mind games
Professor Steve Peters looks on during an England training session at The Sunlife Stadium on June 3, 2014.

LONDON - Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo as their clinical penalty marksman, but if England are thrust into another World Cup sudden death clash their heads may turn to Steve Peters.

The renowned sports psychologist has been hired to put steel into a squad often shown to lack killer instinct and which has the World Cup's worst penalty shootout record.

England lost on penalties in 1990, 1998 and against Ronaldo's Portugal in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals. Germany, by comparison, have played four and won four.

England are practising penalties "a lot," according to team captain Steven Gerrard, who saw his 2006 penalty saved.

"It is a difficult situation to put into words and describe it. There is a lot of pressure," he told the BBC this week.

"You have an awful lot more time to think about your penalty and what is at stake is a lot bigger and it is a pressure situation."

Failing to handle pressure was one of the reasons given by former manager Fabio Capello for England's failure to shine at the 2010 World Cup.

England drew 1-1 with the United States in the group stage and lost 4-1 to Germany in a round of 16 humiliation.

"It is a mental thing. Absolutely," Capello said at the time.

"When you are under pressure, big pressure, sometimes the legs do not work normally," Capello said.

Fast forward four years.

England head to the Brazil World Cup with Gerrard and star striker Wayne Rooney, both burdened by psychological issues that could weigh down their country's chances.

Hodgson believes that Peters is the solution.

As well as working with Gerrard's Liverpool club side during their rise to Premier League title contenders, Peters has also been instrumental in the careers of former snooker world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and British Olympic cycling gold medallists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

He could be just the man to help Rooney, whose World Cup record reads played eight matches, scored none.

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