We can’t even imagine how nerve-racking taking a penalty for England in the Euro 2020 final must have been.
That walk. That expectation. The pressure to ensure football comes home.
Getting paid hundreds of thousands of pounds every week doesn’t mean you’re exempt from pressure.
That’s why Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka can’t be blamed for their failings from the penalty spot.
Shockingly, some England supporters decided to racially abuse the three players in the aftermath of the penalty shootout loss.
Whether or not 19-year-old Saka should even have been taking the fifth penalty is another question altogether.
Reports have since emerged that players were surprised by Gareth Southgate’s decision to give Saka the fifth spot-kick with the likes of Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw below him in the pecking order.
That decision was questioned by Jose Mourinho on talkSPORT - although he admitted that it might be because more senior players didn’t want to take one.
"On the decisions of the penalty takers, I think it’s hard to leave Saka as the last one," Mourinho said.
“I think it’s too much for a kid to have everything on his shoulders in this moment, but I don’t know, I have to ask that question to Gareth because many times what happens is that players who should be there are not there, players who should be there, they run away from the responsibility.”
England players not wanting to take a penalty at a major international tournament has happened before. In fact, Mourinho has made the huge claim that one English player refused to take a penalty during the 2018 World Cup and it may well have cost them a place in Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.
Quiz: Can you name these England one-cap wonders?
Mourinho: One England player refused to take penalty in 2018
Of course, England actually won a penalty shootout against Colombia in 2018 but crashed out of the competition at the semi-final clash after an extra-time loss to Croatia.
And, presumably, one player told Southgate he wouldn’t be taking a penalty either before the match or as the tie went into extra-time. That’s according to Mourinho anyway…
“And because I feel Gareth is such an honest guy and is so protective of his players, I don’t believe Gareth would ever say if ‘Player A’ or ‘Player B’ ran away or hid or said they were not ready to take one,” Mourinho continued.
“Because, don’t ask me who because I will not tell you, but I was told 100 per cent that one player that could be in this team and was not in this team, one of the reasons was in the World Cup semi-final he should have taken a penalty and he refused.
“So sometimes these situations happen and honest people like Gareth don’t expose the player. I don’t know in this case, I really don’t know, but I think it doesn’t matter if you’re a great penalty taker or not."
So, who could that player in question be?
Well, there were only two players in England’s 2018 World Cup squad that had any chance of making the Euro 2020 but failed to do so - Eric Dier, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Alexander-Arnold had to withdraw from the squad due to an injury so it seems unlikely that Mourinho is talking about him.
Dier actually scored the winning penalty against Colombia a week or so previously so it seems unrealistic that he would refuse to take another one against Croatia.
Alli was actually quite a long way off making the Euro 2020 squad so it doesn’t really fit the “one player that could be in this team and was not in this team” comment from Mourinho.
It seems the most likely candidate is Lingard.
However, this is Mourinho’s anecdote so it must be taken with a pinch of salt and we shouldn’t be jumping to any conclusions.News Now - Sport News