Football fans often joke that “it’s the hope that kills you,” though if you’re an England fan it’s more likely to be a penalty shootout that will result in your metaphorical demise.
England lost another shootout on Sunday in a major international tournament as Italy held its nerve to win the Euro 2020 final, with three England players — Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sanho and Bukayo Saka — missing their efforts.
Rashford’s penalty hit the post, while Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the other two penalties.
England manager Gareth Southgate threw on Rashford, 23, and Sancho, 21, just before the penalty shootou, but both men went on to miss as England suffered an all too familiar fate. The national team has now lost seven out of 10 shootouts in major tourrnaments.
Saka is just 19 and only made his England debut in October and the relative youth of that English trio, who missed their penalties and have subsequently been subjected to online racist abuse, has led to criticism from one former international player that more experienced England stars should have taken the penalties.
“If you’re (Raheem) Sterling or (Jack) Grealish, you cannot sit there and have a young kid [Saka] go up for a penalty ahead of you, you can’t,” said former Republic of Ireland international Roy Keane.
“You cannot let a shy 19-year-old go up in front of you. They have a lot more experience, Sterling has won trophies, they had to get in front of the young kid and stand up.”
Grealish took exception to that criticism, tweeting: “The gaffer [Southgate] 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.”
After the final, Southgate said that he had decided on the penalty takers based on the players’ performance in training.
“Nobody is on their own,” Southgate told the BBC. “We have won together as a team and it is on all of us together to not be able to win this game.
“In terms of penalties, it is my call and it totally rests with me. I decided on the penalty takers based on what they have done in training.”
But Southgate has also faced criticism given Sancho and Rashford were brought on as substitutes in the 120th minute, just before the shootout started.
That gave them little or no time to prepare for such a significant moment in the match, especially as England hasn’t won an international tournament for 55 years.
“In reality it is very hard for [Marcus] Rashford and [Jadon] Sancho to come and take a penalty after one touch of the ball,” said AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho.
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