Belfast Telegraph

Rashford not fazed at being put on the spot if a shootout beckons

By Rory Dollard

Marcus Rashford has never taken a first team penalty but has already let it be known that he wants to step up if England find themselves in a World Cup shootout.

Rashford is expected to drop back to the bench when the Three Lions take on Colombia tomorrow in the last 16, but if the game goes into extra-time the Manchester United forward would surely be on the pitch at Spartak Stadium.

The 20-year-old claims never to have missed from the spot at youth level but has never been given the chance by club or country to test his mettle.

Yet England's extensive preparations, which have been formally ongoing since March and have been a daily feature of their sessions at their Zelenogorsk base camp, have left him full of belief that he should be on Gareth Southgate's list of takers.

"I think he knows the players who are confident in those circumstances. I'd be willing to step forward," he said.

"Not everybody here is a penalty taker for their club. It's more if you feel comfortable taking one, which I do."

England are probably the only team still involved in Russia who have faced repeated questions on penalty kicks at every opportunity since they qualified for the knockouts.

That, of course, comes with the territory of six defeats in seven attempts. For a discipline some dismiss as pure luck, England's good fortune appears to have run dry too often.

Rashford, though, sees it as no different to any other aspect of the game - something to be worked at, refined and delivered under pressure.

"They (Colombia) might not be talking about them but they're definitely practising. I think it's stupid not to," he said.

"It's not chance. It's never chance. It's a skill and every skill takes time to learn it and to perfect it. I know goalkeepers practise them a lot. They practise their skills to become perfect at it. It's definitely not chance if you might or might not score."

Despite his youth, Rashford would be forgiven for watching with some frustration as 19-year-old Frenchman Kylian Mbappe took Portugal apart on Saturday evening. Yet he insists he does not measure himself against his contemporaries and is content as long as his own game is advancing.

"Every player will tell you it is always frustrating when you don't start," he said.

"(But) if I know I'm improving to the player I was a year ago or six months ago then that's good enough for me."

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