zt ‘My responsibility’: Gareth Southgate takes blame for shootout selections

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Gareth Southgate took the blame for England’s heartbreaking defeat on penalties by Italy in the Euro 2020 final, saying that the order of his team’s takers in the shootout was his call.

England were denied their first trophy since 1966 after failing to build on Luke Shaw’s early goal at Wembley. The late substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed their penalties before Bukayo Saka, who had come on much earlier, saw the decisive kick saved by Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma.




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“That is my responsibility,” Southgate said. “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.

“What they have to know is none of them are on their own. We win and lose as a team. Penalties are my call. We worked in training. It’s not down to the players. Tonight it hasn’t gone for us. We know they were the best takers we had left on the pitch. Of course it’s going to be heartbreaking for the boys but they are not to blame for that.”

Southgate rallied around Saka, praising the 19-year-old winger’s performances during the tournament. “He’s not on his own,” England’s manager said. “He’s such a super boy. He’s been a star and he’s going to continue to be a star. We’ve got to be there to support and help him. He’ll get a lot of love from outside because of what he’s done in this tournament.”
Southgate explained his use of Rashford and Sancho, who effectively came on cold, was a calculated gamble. “That’s always the risk you run but they’ve been by far the best in the lead-in,” he said. “To get all those attacking players on you have to do it late. It was a gamble but if you gamble earlier you maybe lose in extra time anyway.”

The mood in the dressing room was sombre after England were beaten in the men’s team’s first final since 1966. However Southgate said that his players, who received a visit from Prince William after the game, should be proud of their efforts.

“They’ve given everything,” Southgate said. “They should hold their heads high. The devastation of going so close and not being able to give the country the trophy they wanted is difficult to put into context. The players have given everything and I’m proud of them.

“The players are in a really quiet place. The Duke’s been down to see them in dressing room and has rightly thanked them for what they’ve done. I said we could have no recriminations. They’ve got to walk away from here heads held high. They’ve done more than any team in the last 50 years. But credit to Italy, they’ve been outstanding. The way they’ve used the ball was a little bit better than us and they were strong enough in defence to stop us creating anything.”


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Southgate admitted that England, who were pegged by Leonardo Bonucci’s equaliser in the second half, did not use the ball well enough in midfield after taking the lead.

“In the end they haven’t been able to keep the ball well enough,” he said. “We invited more pressure. It’s something we know we have to be better at. The time to analyse in depth is not in this moment. Tonight my pride in what the players have done is immense.”

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A dejected Harry Kane admitted England’s penalty shootout defeat would haunt them for the rest of their careers.

“We should be extremely proud of what we’ve achieved,” the England captain said. “We’re all winners and it’s going to hurt for a while. It’ll probably hurt for the rest of our careers but that’s football.

“We’ve progressed from [the World Cup in] Russia and now it’s about continuing that. We’ve got a great squad with loads of players hungry for more.”

Kane could be seen at the end consoling Saka but said the squad’s youngsters should use their performances this summer as a springboard before next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“They’ve just got to hold their heads up high,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic tournament and these things can happen. Anyone can miss a penalty. We win together, we lose together; these boys will grow for it and it gives us more motivation to do well in the World Cup next year.

“I couldn’t have given more, the boys couldn’t have given more. Penalties are obviously the worst feeling in the world when you lose. It wasn’t our night. It’s going to hurt for a while now but we’re on the right track.”
 
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