England tasted the heartbreak of yet another penalty shootout defeat at Euro 2020.
England’s penalty heartbreak
Having made it through 120 minutes against a sensational Italian side with the scores locked at 1-1, England came within a whisker of lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy at Wembley Stadium.
The chance was there to be taken with Jordan Pickford pulling off shootout heroics to deny Andrea Belotti and Jorginho but alas, the footballing gods weren’t on England’s side.
Marcus Rashford saw his penalty strike the upright, Jadon Sancho watched as Gianluigi Donnaruma thwarted his effort and Bukayo Saka’s gut-wrenching miss confirmed Italy as champions.
England vs Italy match reaction (Football Terrace)
Criticism of England’s penalty order
It was a heartbreaking string of events that has drawn some people to question Gareth Southgate’s approach towards the penalties with the England boss having taken responsibility for the order.
Roy Keane, for example, has been vocal in claiming that more senior players like Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling should have stepped up for the fifth penalty as opposed to a 19-year-old.
And while it has since emerged that Grealish did indeed throw his hat into the ring, Jose Mourinho is another skeptic when it comes to an England approach that left Saka shouldering the responsibility.
Mourinho on Saka going fifth
The AS Roma coach similarly mused that more experienced players – including none other than Luke Shaw, naturally – should have applied themselves more to step up for England’s fifth penalty.
“For Saka to have the destiny of a country on his shoulders, I think it is too much for a kid to have everything on his shoulders in this moment,” Mourinho opined on talkSPORT.
“But I do not know if I have to ask that question to Gareth [Southgate] or not. Because many times what happens is that players who should be there, they are not there. Players who should be there, they run away from responsibility.
“Gareth is such an honest guy and a protective coach that I do not believe he would ever say player A or player B ran away or told me they were not ready to [take a penalty].
“I do not know in this case, but I do not think it matters if you are a great penalty taker or not. In this situation, where was [Raheem] Sterling? Where was [John] Stones and where was Luke Shaw?
“And why [Jordan] Henderson or [Kyle] Walker did not stay on the pitch? In reality, it is very hard for Rashford and Sancho to come and take a penalty after one touch of the ball.”
He had to mention Shaw, didn’t he? Mourinho later showered the England left-back with praise for his performances this summer, but it still made for an all-too uncanny choice of name-drops.
Besides, there has been a very public back and forth between the former Manchester United collaborators in recent weeks with Shaw even expressing confusion as to what he’s done wrong.
But is Mourinho right?
Mourinho’s opinion that certain players should have stood up and be counted seems to run a little incongruously with what Southgate actually executed, but the point largely remains the same.
Regardless of whether Southgate dictated the penalty order with an iron fist or took on board the opinion of players, the fact of the matter is that Saka still ended up taking the deciding spot-kick.
It’s a move that has clearly gone down a lead balloon with people like Mourinho and Keane, which shouldn’t be underestimated because they are undoubtedly two giant names in the world of football.
However, at the end of the day, penalty shootouts are ultimately a lottery and no doubt Saka’s number would have come up on another night. It’s the luck of the draw, as they say.