Familiar failings cost England but there are no villains, only heroes


ngland suffered heartbreak in the European Championship Final, losing 3-2 to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed consecutive spot-kicks as the Azzurri won 3-2 after the 90 minutes finished with a 1-1 draw.

Given his own history in this competition, it was a cruel twist that the two players Gareth Southgate introduced for penalties – Rahsford and Saka – both missed.

But Southgate and his players has ensured there will be no villains in this England squad, only heroes, and the manager will know better than anyone how to comfort his players.

It was a tragic end to the tournament for a coach and squad who have redefined expectations in the country and the image of the England national team around the world.

Going down on penalties was a familiar way to lose, of course, and Southgate will reflect that there was also evidence of old failings in his side’s performance, which suggests there are still steps to make if England are to replicate this run in Qatar in 18 months.

England’s journey through the Euros has been framed by their World Cup semi-final defeat three years ago, with the survivors from Croatia insisting that they have learned from that painful night in Moscow.

This game actually followed a remarkably similar pattern, with England scoring early but failing to hammer home their dominance, before inviting too much pressure and eventually conceding mid-way through the second half.

In fact, Leonardo Bonucci’s 67th-minute goal to cancel out Luke Shaw’s opener came at exactly the same point in the game as Croatia’s equaliser.

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