Saunderson's Euro-vision: Racial abuse cannot be tolerated as England stars taunted over missed penalties in shoot-out defeat to new champions Italy at Wembley in Euro 2020 final
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THAT’S all folks! A month of top class football action is over and it’s on to Qatar 2022 World Cup, which will be held in November/December next year.
Italy are the champions of Europe for the second time - they last won it in 1968.
After a night of drama at Wembley, it was pretty inevitable that it would boil down to penalties. England and penalties seem to go hand in hand in major tournaments.
The game itself was one of two halves in 90 minutes; England looked like a Shaw thing when Italy felt the force of Luke’s sensational early opener.
However, Gareth Southgate’s men failed to really build on that fantastic start and there was a sense of further inevitability when Phil Mitchell, err sorry, Leonardo Bonucci bundled the ball home from close range.
Extra-time was always going to be a cagey affair and I missed most of it when my 4G signal dropped at the crucial moment. I was watching the game on my phone as I travelled north from a 24 hour sojourn south to visit family.
I hasten to add I was not driving and watching the game at the same time and there was a responsible adult at the wheel of the car.
The signal returned just in time to watch the penalties. I have been impressed with Gareth Southgate throughout the tournament. He talks well in his press conferences and comes across as a studious and very polite man indeed.
However, I do think he made the wrong call when he put on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford 60 seconds from the end of extra-time, obviously for them to be among the five penalty takers.
It seemed risky to throw in two players, albeit very talented and confident individuals, but who were not warmed up or tuned into the game. Virtually their first touch of the game was their penalty and both missed.
Marcus Rashford has done wonderful work to raise awareness of child poverty and is a brilliant footballer, but the moment he started with the old pigeon-toed run up, I feared for the outcome, and so it proved when he hit the post.
Sancho, who will be Rashford’s team-mate at Manchester United next season, was also found wanting from 12 yards, and Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka looked a bag of nerves as the giant Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his final spot-kick to hand Italy the title.
Southgate took full responsibility for the decisions he made ahead of the penalty shootout and given his own heartache with penalties at Euro 1996, I thought this was a brave and principled stance, and I have the highest regard for him as an individual and a manager.
It was sad to hear the morning after the night before that the three England players to miss their penalties had sustained racial abuse on social media.
That needs booted into touch and tougher action needs to be taken against individuals who abuse footballers or anyone else on social media.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” said Southgate.
Italy, in my humble opinion, were the best team throughout the tournament and deserved to win for the style with which they played.
Robert Mancini has guided them to a run of 34 games unbeaten which is remarkable.
If I can end on a note of rampant Scottish patriotism and say well done to Steve Clarke and his side for making it to their first major tournament since 1998 and hopefully this will be the first of many for Scotland in the years to come.