Bukayo Saka’s Christian faith will help him to overcome the despair of missing the crucial penalty in England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final, his friends said yesterday.

Saka, who is just 19, was tasked by Gareth Southgate with taking the last penalty in the shootout on Sunday night. Italy were crowned champions of Europe after Saka and two other England players, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, failed to score with their spot kicks.

The most heartbreaking scene from Sunday’s defeat was a tearful Saka being consoled by his manager, who 25 years earlier in 1996 had missed a penalty that led to defeat against Germany in the semi final of the same tournament.

On Monday, a friend of Saka said the player would get through the ordeal with support from his family, his colleagues and his faith. 

“He will have lots of support from family, friends and through his faith,” said the friend. 

His parents, both born in Nigeria, are devout Christians.

Saka’s former church said members of the congregation would be offering up their prayers. He attended Kingsborough Family Church while growing up close by at the family’s old home in west London. 

Saka, who lives with his parents, moved out of the area, almost two years ago to be nearer to his club side Arsenal’s training ground in Hertfordshire.

A pastor at the church said: “The church will be praying for him. Prayer is not limited by distance and we don’t need him to be here for us to pray for him. We always seek the positive side and Bukayo will know that good will come out of this [defeat].”

Saka’s former PE teacher at Greenford High School in west London said pupils were backing him to overcome the penalty miss, describing him as “courageous” for volunteering to take it.

Mr Patel said: “We all found it quite hard seeing our boy miss that penalty. We will use this as a tool to educate our students about how to pick yourself up after knock backs. As we know, next year he’ll be back playing with Arsenal and for England.”

The teacher added: “We know it’s going to be hard for him right now, but we’re all behind him. To be honest, I think the whole country is behind him. We hope that he’s okay and not doubting himself. His feeling right now should be of pride. He’s an absolute hero.”

Saka has spoken openly of his faith. On his Instagram account, his profile states simply “God’s Child”. 

According to the Premier Christianity website, Saka wrote to his old junior school, Edward Betham Church of England Primary School, about the role faith plays in his life. In his letter, Saka said that before every game he prays to God to help with his game and understands how his faith is tested each match. 

Saka said: “My faith is constantly being exercised when I’m put in different situations or I play in big football matches such as my England debut.

“Before every game, I ask God to help me play well, help my team and try to score a goal or assist a goal and he answers my prayers, so this is why I point to the sky to thank him.”

Arsenal Football Club issued a statement offering the club’s full support for a player, who has been with the club since he was seven and has now emerged during Euro 2020 as a star of the future. 

The club condemned the racist abuse aimed at Saka, Rashford and Sancho after their penalty misses, and said of Saka: “We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue, but sadly there is only so much we can do. 

“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”