Euro 2020: The Gareth Southgate substitution that 'cost England the final vs Italy'

Declan Rice Euro 2020 final

England fans may not have many fond memories of the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium.

After what had been a joyous gallop to the continental finale, England would fall agonisingly short after coming out on the wrong end of a penalty shoot-out against Italy.

It had all started so well after Luke Shaw thumped one home at the back post to give England an early lead, one they would hold onto well into the second-half.

The tide swung dramatically with the Italian equaliser though, and, as extra-time ticked on, it began to feel like England’s hopes were ebbing away.

However, while the end result was one that would rather be forgotten, there were many positives to take away from the championship as a whole.

England finally overcame their age-old rivals Germany in a knock-out game while the emergence of the likes of Calvin Phillips and Bukayo Saka showed that the future is in good hands.

Raheem Sterling was electric up front while the defence held fast to provide the foundation off which to launch.

Perhaps the biggest unsung hero of the tournament though, was Declan Rice.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 29: Declan Rice of England runs with the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The West Ham star was a cut above in the England midfield as he pulled the strings and directed play with a number of domineering performances.

Rice was strong and unforgiving in the tackle, assertive and ambitious going forward as well as cool and collected with the ball at his feet.

His performance in the final was perhaps his best of the lot as he ran the show for England.

Rice dominated the Italian midfield, keeping them quiet going forward and asking a lot of questions of them in defence.

He regularly broke the lines and made a habit of snuffing out attacks before they could get going.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 29: Declan Rice of England celebrates after victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by John Sibley – Pool/Getty Images)

Now, fans on Twitter are rallying behind the narrative that it was the substitution of Rice, in favour of ring-rusty Jordan Henderson, that ultimately cost England the game.

England almost instantly lost that element of control and sturdiness and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you are still of the opinion that fans may be reaching, why not check out Rice’s highlights in the footage below to see just how commanding he was in the middle.

Brilliant – he really was running the show.

Now, of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s easy for us to sit here and admonish Gareth Southgate’s decision to whip Rice off.

Even still, you can’t help but wonder what might have been if he had left his midfield general in the thick of the battle right until the last.

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