Monday, 20 April 2009

Jagielka shows international character

The sight of Everton defender Phil Jagielka tucking away the winning penalty at Wembley was significant, not just for Everton’s FA Cup fortunes, but for what happened at Goodison Park 13 months before.

Back in March 2008 Everton had just played out of their skin against Italian side Fiorentina, but unable to grab the third goal that would secure a 3-2 aggregate win, the game had to be decided on penalties.

Up stepped Jagielka, who had performed immensely again on the night, but the keeper guessed the right way and palmed away the defender's effort. Everton were out and Jagielka faced the long walk back to the halfway line.

That moment must have played on his mind as he walked towards Ben Foster’s goal at Wembley on Sunday. He knew that if he scored his side would triumph, but John Terry also knew that in Moscow and we all know what happened there.

So, the fact Jagielka tucked it away with aplomb proves he has the mental strength to go with undoubted abilities as an international centre-half - which is definitely a boost for Fabio Capello.

He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Back in December he played a back pass blind towards Tim Howard and failed to spot Ashley Young closing in, the Villa winger tucked the ball home and Jagielka once again wanted the ground to swallow him up.

It’s the sort of mistake that would shatter many players' confidence, but the Everton man responded by performing even better, leading, of course, to an England call-up in February. It is a shame therefore that many people blame Jagielka for the defeat in Spain, when his mistake led to the first goal. Again, it is a moment that can affect a player’s mental strength and confidence, but once again Jagielka retuned to his club and maintained his excellent level of form.

That didn’t go unnoticed by Fabio Capello, who gave him a massive vote of confidence by bringing him on as a late sub against the Ukraine a few weeks ago. The international stage is a tough arena to play in, you can have all the talent in the world but it is worth nothing if you crack under the pressure. I just need to mention the words penalty ‘shoot-out’ to any England fan to prove that.

Jagielka booked a return date to Wembley with his club side on Sunday, and banished the ghosts of Fiorentina to boot. If he continues to show such mental strength and character, it's my football prediction that...............

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