Italy won Euro 2020 after a penalty shootout win over England at Wembley
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Gary Neville called for the country to rally around Bukayo Saka after the teenager missed the crucial penalty in England’s shootout defeat against Italy.
“It is heartbreaking for the boy,” said Neville on ITV. “The whole nation is going to need to cuddle him. Everybody has loved this boy for the past few weeks and they will love him in the next few weeks. He has been absolutely brilliant.
“Gone are the days when we criticise players for missing a penalty. Fifteen or 20 years ago there might have been a scapegoat. That is not going to happen this time.
“We have got a lot more mature. They are human beings and they need to be looked after. They cannot be assaulted or abused.”
Ian Wright, who has a close relationship with Saka, praised the Arsenal winger for being “brave enough” to take the crucial penalty, while Roy Keane said the 19-year-old will be better for the gruelling experience.
“He is a child and I guarantee he will be better for it,” said Keane. “It is all part of growing up, I am afraid.
“No team deserved to lose. It is not a night to be critical of any England players or Gareth Southgate or the staff. Both goalkeepers made some brilliant saves. You have to lose to win. These players will be better for it, it’s a tough night but you have to take your medicine and move on.”
Keane said more senior players like Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish should have stepped up to take spot-kicks ahead of Saka.
"If you are Sterling or Grealish you cannot sit there and have a young kid go ahead of you," he added. "You can’t sit there. That must be hard to take. You have to get in front of the young kid and say ‘I will step up before you.’"
How England reacted
Gareth Southgate took full responsibility for England’s shootout defeat, saying he decided the order of the takers after preparing the team “as well as they could” before the final.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho both missed from the spot before Saka’s effort, the crucial fifth for England, was saved.
“That is my responsibility,” said Southgate. “I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation. We win and lose together as a team. They have been tight throughout and that’s how it needs to stay.
“It is my decision to give [Saka] that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon. We worked through them in training. That is the order we came to.
Bukayo Saka was distraught at the final whistle
“Marcus and Jadon have been by far the best in the lead in [to the game]. It was a gamble [to bring them on] but if we gamble earlier we maybe lose the game in extra time.”
Southgate said his side’s lack of composure on the ball was their major problem in the second half, when Italy came back into the match.
“We did start well,” said Southgate. “Our system worked really well against theirs. They were bound to have a spell where they came into the game. We didn’t keep the ball well enough in that initial period in that second half. That was the area of the game. It was our lack of composure in possession that turned the game.”
Harry Kane, the England captain, said; “I have told the team to hold their heads up high. We have come a long way since Russia and broken down a lot of barriers. We should be proud of it.
“Penalties are the worst ways to lose and unfortunately it was not our night. It is not easy taking a penalty under the highest pressure. Sometimes a goalkeeper makes a good save and that is what happened tonight. We win together we lose together, that’s part and parcel of our game.
Harry Kane consoled Saka after his penalty miss
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“We started in the perfect way but sometimes that gives you the mindset to drop in and hold onto that lead. We could not quite get on the ball and keep possession. Of course, we are going to look back and think of things we could have done better.
“For sure it feels like a missed opportunity right now. It is not every day you get into finals, especially for your national team. That’s football, that’s part of the game. We have to get on with it and move on. We have to build on it like we have done in Russia. This year the aim was to go one step further and go all the way. We have a great young squad, loads of amazing players.”
Harry Maguire, who along with Kane was one of England’s two penalty-scorers, added: "Heartbroken, disappointed, gutted. We gave everything. It was a bit of a ding-dong. We had the first half, they had the second.
"They are a top side so they are going to have times when we come under pressure. It just wasn’t our night and there were times in that second half when, of course, we should have been braver on the ball, but there were times when we were excellent."
Euro 2020 final
How the pundits reacted
"I’m devastated. I’m devastated for the lads, for the team. They’ve put everything into this tournament.
"But you can’t take away what [Mancini] has done for Italy. This team didn’t even qualify for the World Cup and he has dragged them to a European Championship.
"It’s a horrible way for us to lose it."
"Football is a cruel, cruel game at times and now is one of those. Those boys have performed heroically for a month. It’s such a shame it has to come down to a situation like this, it’s a horrible situation to be in.
"I just feel for Rashford, Sancho and Saka, it’s a lot for those young boys to take on in the future and it’s so, so cruel.
"You have got to give Mancini and his players huge credit because they took a battering in the first half and he changed it around, he made the changes that needed to be made, he allowed Insigne to float a little bit more in the second half, they got on the ball, they couldn’t get in the little pockets in the first half, they did in the second half, and that was the difference – they found a way, as they did do in the semi-final, as they did do against Austria.
"This is a wily old team with great experience and you have to say congratulations to them, because at times [Italy] found it tough, but they got around that.
"It’s a big ask to put two players on and say: ‘You’re going to take a penalty’. The pressure it puts on those lads – you’ve no feeling of the football, you’re not involved in the game at all, and then you’re put in that situation, it’s a big, big ask.
"[On the Jorginho tackle] It was careless, it was endangering the safety of an opponent, it’s over the top, and it should have been a red card."
"For young lads like that, in the early stages of their career, young talented players, in a group who have tried so hard to bring football home, it’s going to hurt. But they stepped up, credit for stepping up, they showed something about themselves for doing that, but football is so, so cruel.
"In pure football terms, [Italy] deserved their victory tonight.
"The possession stats will be high but finals are sometimes won by moments and it could go any way, we saw that at the end.
"[On the Jorginho tackle] In the Premier League I’m pretty sure that gets looked at on the monitor and it’s a red card. It’s not always easy to nail these the first time but I think it’s a red card when you see it."
Heartbreaking. Congratulations @Azzurri on a great victory.
@England, you’ve all come so far, but sadly this time it wasn’t our day. You can all hold your heads high, and be so proud of yourselves — I know there’s more to come. W
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) July 11, 2021
"It’s obviously a huge disappointment but these players have brought us a joy that my generation and below have never felt watching an England team. They lifted this country when we needed it, the morale of this country, with everything we’ve been through, so they have to take huge credit for that. But it’s a harsh, harsh game when it gets to this stage. To lose [on penalties] is a painful way to lose it.
"The experience, the wily old foxes in that Italian team, by hook or by crook they were going to get over the line today. When it got to penalties, it’s a 50:50 flip of a coin.
"We could have been more positive in this game, that’s one criticism I would probably level at [Southgate] in this game. Look at Mancini, in the first half, we looked more comfortable, more composed. They came out and they dominated. That’s because he [Mancini] has seen something from a coaching perspective and he’s changed it. You have got to be able to adjust things and fix things to get a positive result."
"It has been a magnificent month of football and Italy have definitely been the team of the tournament. They were very dominant in the final in terms of possession.
"Wembley is alight, perhaps not with the colours we all hoped for, but there are a lot of Italians in this stadium. That’s six major tournaments now for Italy, only Germany have won more with seven.
"England’s defeat means the last three sides with home advantage in a final have lost.
"It’s just two out of nine major shootouts England have won. We thought we had got over that with the win over Colombia but here we are again.
"Pickford was probably England’s best player on the night."