“It is coming to Rome, it is coming to Rome,” bellowed Bonucci at the camera, thus putting an end to England’s 55-year old dream of winning a major football tournament. At least for a while. Not even the best of pundits whose words echo in the ears of most football betting enthusiasts when filling out a betslip could predict that it could come down to penalties after Shaw helped England get to an early lead. Yet, Italy managed to even the score, leaving the ultimate result down to penalties, resulting in Italy coming out on top with a 3:2 win in the series. Saka and Rashford’s misses put the final hammer in the coffin for Southgate’s team, but are they the only ones to take the rightful heat, or is the team’s manager to blame as well?
A Game Worthy of Finals
The night of tension, expectations, and ultimately the night of desperation is how most English fans would describe the UEFA Euro 2020’s finals. The ability to play at Wembley after a great winning streak, having defeated Germany, Ukraine, and Denmark in the knockout stage, was a perfect sign for many that the trophy is finally within the English’s reach. What’s more, the match could not have started any better for the three lions thanks to the stunning volley and emphatic finish from Shaw just two minutes in.
But it was the brilliance of Mancini’s tactics and the introduction of Bryan Cristante and Domenico Berardi that changed the tides in Italy’s favor. The two attacking midfielders exerted more pressure on the central part of the pitch, resulting in more dangerous attacks. After one such attack and a beautiful header by Verratti that Pickford deflected on to a post, Bonucci deftly kicked the ball into the net and leveled the game 67 minutes into the game.
Italy entered the match with a 33 winning streak and managed to outlast the frantic atmosphere at Wembley. The pressure was clearly mounting on Italy, and listening to the chant “It’s coming home” for days motivated the team further to teach the hosts a lesson — it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Or Pavarotti, at least — whichever you prefer.
Penalties: Youngsters on the Line
The penalty shootout was a bitter disappointment for the English side. The team missed three of five penalties, and it seemed the younger players were to blame. Marcus Rashford hit a post, and Jadon Sancho was denied by Donnarumma before. Even though Kane and Maguire the English’s hopes up, together with Pickford’s saves from Belotti and Jorginho, the Italian’s goalkeeper’s save from Arsenal’s teenager Bukayo Saka marked the end of those hopes.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were brought into the game just before the penalty shootout began, probably for a single purpose — to take penalty shots. It turned out these players, aged 21 and 23, together with Saka, aged 19, all missed their shots. It might be hard to determine whether lack of experience or unbearable pressure are the culprits, but the misses remain.
The players were even the victims of racial abuse on all social media following the game, which drew disgust and condemnation of the FA, the UEFA, and all social media companies who quickly withdrew the comments and suspended those accounts.
Many passed the blame onto senior players such as Sterling and Grealish. The football legend, Roy Keane, stated that they simply had to take the responsibility and be the ones to shoot the kicks, and not those younger players, no matter the circumstances.
Case Southgate: Is Gareth Southgate to Blame For the Loss?
England’s boss Gareth Southgate declared that the choice of penalty takers was entirely his. He was quick to console Saka, Rashford, and other young players who were evidently distraught after the penalty series was over, but what good did that do?
The choice of penalty shooters baffled many pundits across state televisions for one evident reason — how come can a player who had just entered the game be in the right state of mind and focus on shooting the penalty? Southgate justifies his decision claiming what the players have done in training, but that proved not enough.
The team manager had his own embarrassing moments with spot-kicks at Euro ‘96, where he missed a crucial one. It seems these penalties will continue to haunt him for a while.