With just seconds remaining in the Euro 2020 final, England manager Gareth Southgate took a gamble.
The game was headed to penalties and his thoughts had turned to who would step up from 12 yards for the Three Lions.
On came Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – two players Southgate would use in the penalty shootout against Italy.
It was a gamble that backfired for Southgate with both players missing from the spot as Italy won the shootout 3-2.
Football is the game of fine margins. Southgate changed his starting 11 that beat Denmark in the semi-final to recall Kieran Trippier in a back five.
The change worked with Trippier providing an assist for his opposite wing back Luke Shaw to score inside two minutes.
It was the fastest goal ever in a European Championship final and stunned a disbelieving crowd of more than 67,000, mostly decked out in red and white.
Italy was level in the second half when Leonardo Bonucci scrambled the ball into the net from close range after England’s defence failed to clear.
Marcus Rashford of England reacts after missing their team’s third penalty.Source:Getty Images
But the penalty shootout gamble from Southgate had less success.
After England keeper Jordon Pickford saved Andrea Beloti’s penalty, England had the upper hand in front of 60,000 people at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Then up stepped Rashford.
A player who had not touched the ball once during the game and who had played a minute since the final group game against Czech Republic.
The Manchester United striker fooled Italy keeper Gianlugi Donnarumma, but his shot hit the post and missed.
Then Sancho – who had only touched the ball twice in his one minute on the pitch – missed his penalty and it was advantage Italy.
Jorginho – who was lucky to still be on the pitch after an ugly tackle on Jack Grealish in extra time – missed his chance to win it for Italy after England’s two misses.
But when 19-year-old Bukayo Saka had his shot saved, it was game over for England.
Questions will also be asked why Southgate chose a teenager to take the all important final penalty when captain and regular penalty taker Harry Kane took the first one.
Gareth Southgate speaks to England’s midfielder Bukayo Saka.Source:AFP
Don't go dissing on Rashford, Sancho & Sakho, there's a lot of pressure on those young shoulders, esp with the weight of major trophy & shootout history. The shift to youth has got #ENG where it is, on the rise, & smart football nations build on that #EURO2020
I see the appetite to anoint someone a scapegoat – one of our least appealing traditions – is undimmed. People calling for a manager to be sacked who has just led England to their first ever European Championship final is fickle, pathetic, predictable and stupid in equal measure
Jordan Pickford of England is consoled by teammate Raheem Sterling following defeat.Source:Getty Images
Southgate said it was his decision to put teenager Saka as his team’s final penalty taker in their shoot-out loss.
Southgate also brought on Sancho and Rashford deep into extra time specifically to take spot-kicks, and they also both missed as England blew an early advantage in the shoot-out.
“I chose the takers,” Southgate told ITV. “I’m unbelievably disappointed not to go one step further.
“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”
Arsenal winger Saka, who had only made five international appearances before the tournament, saw England’s final penalty saved by Donnarumma, after Jorginho had wasted the chance to secure the title for Italy when his effort was kept out by Pickford.
“That was my decision to give him (Saka) that penalty,” said Southgate, who missed the crucial penalty when England lost in the Euro 96 semi-finals to Germany on home soil.
“We worked with them in training. It was a gamble.”
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