At the time of writing, England have qualified for the knockout phase of Euro 2016 in France.
Which, for most fans, brings a familiar sense of foreboding.
The expectation of the inevitable.
The knowledge that however often we may try, like Sisyphus, the rock will always roll back down the mountain. Or in England’s case, the decisive penalty will skew disastrously into the night sky, pulled aside by fate and the power of belief (or lack of it).
Yet another Englishman will take that tragic walk back to the halfway line, consoled only by the promise of a self-deprecating role in a pizza advert.
At least that same irresistible narrative will form a comfort blanket around our shoulders, helping to take away the pain of another premature ejection. What can you do – England and penalties, eh?
So what can you do? According to Wayne Rooney:
In the next couple of days, now we are in the knock-out stages, I’m sure we will practise penalties a lot more…We’ve been practising them every day anyway but now we will start doing it as a group, like a match situation.
You can’t simulate the emotional cauldron and post-match exhaustion of a penalty shootout on the training field. So practicing penalties seems futile. Neither has it helped in the past.
Besides, any professional footballer (even those brought up to play it long to the big man upfront) has the skills to thump the ball into the right part of the goal. The problem is not a lack of technique.
According to the Moirai-Zeus conflict, the real challenge for England is to rewrite their own destiny to overcome the seemingly inevitable. To play at being Zeus and make some all-seater stadium his temple.
One way to achieve this is to enhance the resistance of English fans and players to the English penalty narrative. However, this is what a manager once said to me:
As soon as you tell the team not to underestimate the opposition, you can be sure they will underestimate the opposition
As soon as you talk about England and penalties, you feed the beast. You give power to the Moirai as they debate which English penalty taker should balloon his shot into the surprised, but welcoming, arms of a 45-year old plumber from Alicante or Aachen sitting in Row 49.
The only real option here is simply to dismiss the topic with sneering arrogance. Take away its power through indifference.
If ignored, perhaps fate will slink off quietly, shoulders hunched, collar turned up, and seek solace in a late-night bar in Amsterdam.
But that approach may be difficult in the modern media world. You need a strong personality to impose indifference on a Twitterful of journalists. England does not have a Mourinho or a Zlatan.
So perhaps England should instead build a stronger, competing narrative instead. The penalty shootout as an opportunity, as the start of a new era, as the chance to become heroes. To roll the rock up to the top of a mountain and leave it there, complete with a small car park, snack bar and souvenir stand selling “England, penalty shootout winners 2016” fridge magnets.
Replace fear with anticipation, panic with excitement. Conquer nerves with the promise of national redemption.
Defeat the Moirai with their own weapons and turn the hand of destiny to a new England story. To watch a nation rise up defiantly and reclaim the penalty spot for Queen and country. To leave the opposition goalie sprawled forlornly as a tumble of white shirts look to the skies in joy and righteous arrogance.
And see Zeus smiling down upon them.