Gareth Southgate took responsibility for England’s penalty shootout defeat, saying the decisions made were entirely down to him.
It was a painfully familiar story for England at Wembley. They drew 1-1 with Italy across 120 minutes, leading to the dreaded penalties to decide the winner of Euro 2020.
It began well, but misses from Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and 19-year-old Bukayo Saka saw Italy claim their second European Championship title, leaving England heartbroken once again as they were beaten 3-2 in the shootout.
After the game, England manager Southgate took full responsibility for the penalty shootout, having chosen the line-up.
When asked what he would say to Saka, Southgate replied: “That it’s down to me. I chose the penalty takers based on what we’ve done in training and nobody is on their own. We’ve won together as a team and it’s absolutely on all of us in terms of not being able to win the game tonight.
“But in terms of the penalties, that’s my call and totally rests with me.
“We had two [penalty takers] go off earlier in the game, so that’s why we made the changes that we did. We’ve tracked what they’ve done with their clubs over a long period of time and what they’ve shown in training as well so that’s the process that worked for us in Russia and the Nations League, but tonight, it hasn’t quite worked.
“We were well prepared and started well, but unfortunately, the guys weren’t able to convert tonight. They can’t look at themselves in terms of how they practised because they couldn’t do that anymore or any better.
“[Saka] is such a super boy, he’s so popular with the whole group. He’s had an incredible tournament and he’s a star, and he will continue to be a star.
“In a final tonight as well, he performed exceptionally well when he came into the game. We’ve got to be there to support and help him, but I’m sure he’ll get a lot of love from outside from the way he’s established himself in this tournament.”
Although the evening ended in another penalty shootout heartbreak, Southgate wants his players to proud of their efforts at Euro 2020.
He told the BBC: “We’re hugely disappointed because firstly, the players have been an absolute credit. They’ve given everything they possibly could tonight, they’ve run themselves into the ground. At times, they played really well and at times, we didn’t keep the ball quite well enough, especially at the beginning of the second half.
“But they can’t have any recriminations. They’ve been a joy to work with and they’ve gone further than we have for so long, but tonight, it is incredibly painful in that dressing room… You have to feel that disappointment because the opportunities to win trophies like this are so rare in your life.
“But when they reflect on what they’ve done, they should be very proud of themselves.”
Winning coach Mancini lost for words
Italy head coach Roberto Mancini added yet another trophy to his cabinet, completing a sensational turnaround of the national team, who failed to qualify for the World Cup three years ago.
“It was impossible even to just consider this at one stage, but the guys were just amazing. I have no words for them, this is a wonderful group. This was a difficult game made a lot harder after their early goal. Apart from that early spell, we dominated the match.
“We are delighted for people and the Italian public because they really deserve this after what has been a trying period. This is great joy for us.
“Winning the European Championship for the first time since 1968 and bringing home the trophy I do think it is something incredible.
“It (crying) was the emotion which happens after achieving something incredible. It was the emotion of seeing the guys celebrate and the fans in the stands.
“Seeing everything we have managed to create, all of the hard work we have put in over the last three years but specifically the last 50 days which have been very hard.
“It’s the fact we have been able to forge this team spirit over the last 50 days, they have really created something which can never be separated going forward. They will always be synonymous with this triumph.
“You have to have a little luck on penalties. I feel a little sorry for England, because they also had a great tournament. The team has grown a lot and I think we can improve further. We are very happy for all Italians. I have no words for these guys!”
How the players reacted
England captain Harry Kane to the BBC: “The boys couldn’t have given more. Penalties are the worst thing in the world when you lose them. It’s been a fantastic tournament, we should be proud and hold our heads up high, but it’s going to hurt now. It’s going to hurt for a while, but we’re on the right track and we’re building. Hopefully we can progress next year.
“We played against a very good side and got off to the perfect start. We maybe dropped a little bit too deep, sometimes when you score that early, it’s easy to soak up the pressure and hold onto that. They had a lot of the ball, but we looked fairly in control.
“We didn’t create too many chances, they got the breakthrough from a set piece and after that, it was probably 50/50. We had a few half chances in extra time and then penalties are penalties. We went through our process and the boys did everything they could, but it just wasn’t our night.
“Anyone can miss a penalty. We win together, we lose together and we’ll grow from it. It will give us more motivation to do well in the World Cup next year.”
Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini to ITV: “It was a tough game, we started in the worst way possible, with England scoring after two minutes. The fans, all of the stadium, gave their energy to England, but we were quiet and calm and then we started to lead the match from 15 minutes and started to play. We found the right passes, controlled the game and that was the way to win. It’s a dream come true, it’s magic. We are more than happy.”
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci: “We were special in that we believed right from day one when we all joined up. There was a different feeling in the air and it’s come to pass. It’s incredible how, day after day, we never got tired of spending time together. Normally, you can’t wait for something to end when it was so long, but we had this burning desire to carry on. It’s incredible.
“We [Bonucci and Chiellini] have been waiting for this moment from 2012. We were a step away, but we’ve been chasing after it. But we believed we could get it done.”
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma: “We have done something extraordinary. We are happy. We didn’t give up a millimetre. You all know where we started from. We are a fantastic team and we deserve it.
“The goal we conceded at the very start could have done for us, but we are not a team that gives up. It wasn’t easy but we were spectacular, great. We dominated for a large part of the game. We deserve all this.”
It was penalty shootout heartbreak again for England and Gareth Southgate in a crushing Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
Alice Piper is joined by Pete Smith and Gerard Brand to reflect on a dramatic Euro 2020 final, with England unable to mark their progress with the silverware.