So the Euros are over once again and Italy have prevailed.
For England – so often the magnet for calamity in the past – it was close. Really close. But in all honesty they didn’t have quite the quality of the Azzuri, who I think were the better team for most of the Final, and certainly the best team in the tournament (even if Jorginho) could easily have been red carded for his studs-in stamp on Grealish).
And yet, England nearly won it. They led for most of the match then led again in the penalty shoot-out.
What possessed Southgate to entrust those penalties to Rashford and Sancho – who hadn’t touched a ball? If England had continued to convert their penalties, they would have won, but to put so much pressure on youngsters who’d not been in the game was odd.
Southgate claimed responsibility – as he had to – but it has to be wondered why the likes of Sterling, Trippier, Shaw (who would have been confident after taking a chance much harder than a penalty) or Grealish weren’t ahead of them. Henderson could also have been left on to take one. (Did you notice Rashford wasn’t even looking at the ball when he kicked it? Never a good idea.)
England will agonise over this result for a long, long time as the “years of hurt” continue to climb. Baddiel and Skinner could have their telegrams from the Queen before they get to sing about England winning again.
For now, at least, football’s going Rome and may continue to do so for some years. They were the best team in the tournament – certainly the most technically skilled – and with so many young players could be setting up a serious new dynasty.
Insigne is an outstanding player – reminiscent of Kante in his pomp but with better distribution. Chiesa is just so dangerous, and Donnarumma is the best keeper since … erm … since ever? I can’t think of a better one right now. He must be worth at least 20 points a season for whomever he plays, and I understand he’s never lost a penalty shootout.
Finally, my heart goes out to the English fans (and there are millions of them where I live on the Central Coast). There’ll be a new pandemic of depression across England and great swathes of Australia as the bitterness of the loss sinks in.
Some say losing on penalties is the worst way to lose but I’d rather draw the actual game and go out on penalties than get thrashed six blot. Because this wasn’t a loss really – just Gareth buying the wrong tickets in the spot kick lottery.
Mind you, there’s something about the English psyche that seems to revel in defeat. Am I right Barmy Army? They’ll get over it as they start to see the positives.
They did very well indeed and there’s always the World Cup to look forward to.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in late 2021.