Grealish, centre, was behind Saka in the order of penalty takers
Jack Grealish has said he did want to take a penalty after he was criticised for not being among England’s first five takers in the European Championship final defeat to Italy.
The Aston Villa captain and Raheem Sterling were both singled out by Roy Keane for not being ahead of 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, who missed the decisive kick in the shoot-out.
But Grealish defended himself, making it plain he was keen to take a spot kick and that it was manager Gareth Southgate’s decision not to select him — a decision he is not critical of.
I said I wanted to take one!!!!
The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will… https://t.co/3mBpKyMoUV
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) July 12, 2021
Grealish’s comments come as video emerged of Southgate selecting his penalty takers with the 25-year-old seemingly eighth in line. Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka took the first five, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Kalvin Phillips appearing to be ahead of Grealish.
Gareth going around his choices from Rashford onwards.
3 = Rashford
4 = Sancho
5 = Saka
6 = Pickford
7 = Phillips
Then he points to someone and says “eight”.
Beggars belief how Pickford is taking one before other established outfield players. pic.twitter.com/WnpsiCwuSB
— Limpar33 (@Limpar33) July 12, 2021
Southgate’s list of penalty-takers was partly informed by a league table of spot-kicks taken in training.
Before the tournament, the Daily Telegraph reported how assistant manager Steve Holland has kept a tally of spot-kick takers since England broke their shootout hoodoo at the 2018 World Cup when they defeated Columbia.
Players practised penalties at every camp since Russia and Holland had the data on England’s best takers, with Harry Kane the chosen taker during matches. Harry Maguire also took a penalty in the shootout win against Switzerland in the Uefa Nations League third-place play-off in 2019.
Southgate took full responsibility for the order in which the players took penalties, saying: “That is my responsibility. 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 him [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.
“The players have given absolutely everything and I’m very proud of them. They can hold their heads up high."
Kane and Maguire both scored for England in the penalty shootout before Rashford and Sancho — both brought off the bench with seconds left of the semi-final to take a spot-kick — had their efforts either hit the post or be saved by Italy’s keeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Pickford kept hopes alive with a second save but Saka also had his crucial penalty stopped by Donnarumma to hand Italy victory.