Football

Southgate accepts responsibility for Euro 2020 final defeat

England boss feels they were undone by a lack of composure on the ball

Gareth Southgate has urged England to use the pain of their Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy to fuel future success, as the Three Lions boss accepted the blame for their heartbreaking loss.

England failed to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed penalties in a 3-2 shoot-out defeat at Wembley after a 1-1 stalemate in extra-time yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Southgate's side had made a dream start thanks to Luke Shaw's second-minute half-volley.

But Italy strengthened their grip on the game and hit back through Leonardo Bonucci's 67th-minute equaliser.

When it came to penalties, Southgate gambled by sending on late substitutes Rashford and Sancho specifically for their prowess from the spot.

The move backfired, as Rashford struck the post while Sancho and Saka saw their efforts saved as England suffered another shoot-out defeat.

"That is my responsibility. I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation," Southgate said.

"It is my decision to give Saka that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon.

"Marcus and Jadon have been by far the best in the lead-in. It was a gamble (to bring them on), but if we gamble earlier, we maybe lose the game in extra-time."

England had won their last two penalty shoot-outs against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and against Switzerland in the 2019 Nations League.

But even those successes weren't enough to keep the players from losing their nerve when the stakes were highest, with over 60,000 fans roaring them on.

Jordan Pickford did his part, saving Andrea Belotti and Jorginho's efforts and Southgate insisted he had no regrets about his picks for the penalty takers.

"We've tracked them, what they've done with their clubs over a long period of time and what they've shown in training as well," he said.

But he admitted that his side's lack of composure on the ball ultimately proved fatal, saying: "We did start well. They were bound to have a spell where they came into the game.

"We didn't keep the ball well enough in that initial period in the second half.

"It was our lack of composure in possession that turned the game. The way they used the ball was better than us."

Former England striker Gary Lineker said that Southgate should be more attack-minded.

He tweeted: "We have the forward talent to scare teams, at present, we seem scared ourselves to release that talent."

England have an impressive array of young attacking talent including Sancho, Rashford, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, but none of them were given consistent central roles in the side.

But Gary Neville, another of those former England players who failed to reach a major final, was supportive of Southgate.

He said: "The reality is that Southgate has proved so many of us wrong - not just in this tournament but over the last two years - about decisions he has made.

"It would be a nonsense now to start suggesting we are right about substitutions and penalty-takers when most of us have not seen this in our lifetimes."

Southgate added that his players should feel proud of what they have achieved.

He said: "We win and lose together. They've got to walk away from here with their heads held high.

"They've done more than any other team in the last 50 or so years."

Ex-England striker Chris Sutton urged support, saying: "This is not a time to stop believing. There's a World Cup next year. The future is bright." - AFP, REUTERS

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