Inspirational physicist Stephen Hawking passed away peacefully at home in March this year.
Tributes flooded in for the pioneering Englishman, whose theories on black holes and relativity changed the face of physics.
More importantly, he once devised a formula for taking the ‘perfect penalty’.
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Hawking set out to help England by applying scientific logic to years of data regarding penalties.
The Three Lions have a famously terrible record in penalty shootouts at major tournaments with Hawking saying: “As we say in science, England couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.”
After analysing results from every World Cup since 1966, Hawking concluded that penalty-takers should have a run-up of more than three steps and use their side foot rather than their laces.
“If only I had whispered this in Chris Waddle’s ear before he sent the ball into orbit in 1990,” he said.
“Use the side foot rather than laces and you are 10% more likely to score.
“The statistics confirm the obvious. Place the ball in the top left or right hand corner for the best chance of success – 84% of penalties in those areas score.
The ability of strikers to place the ball results in them being more likely to score than midfielders and defenders.
“There is no evidence that it’s advantageous to be left or right-footed but bald players and fair-haired players are more likely to score.”
After taking into account environmental, physiological, psychological, political and tactical variables, Hawking came to a string of conclusions about England’s chances in Brazil four years ago.
“Statistically England’s red kit is more successful,” he said, “and we should play 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2.
“Psychologists in Germany found red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant.
“Likewise, 4-3-3 is more positive so the team benefits for similar psychological reasons.
“The data shows we also need to hope for a European referee. European referees are more sympathetic to the English game and less sympathetic to ballerinas like (Luis) Suarez.”
Suarez had the last laugh on that occasion…
“Like all animals, the England team are creatures of habit.
“Being closer to home reduces the negative impact of cultural differences and jet lag.
“We do better in temperate climates, at low altitudes with kick-off as close to the normal three o’clock as possible.
“The impact of environmental factors alone is quite staggering. A 5C rise in temperature reduces our chances of winning by 59%.
“We are twice as likely to win when playing below 500 metres above sea level. And our chances of winning improve by a third when kicking off at three o’clock local time.”
All that means England should feel considerably more comfortable in Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia.
And if it comes to penalties, for the love of God, please take Hawking’s advice.