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Fears for teen star after cruel England 'gamble'

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a hand holding a group of people in a field: Bukayo Saka is comforted by teammates after missing the decisive penalty.

Bukayo Saka is comforted by teammates after missing the decisive penalty.

England coach Gareth Southgate has been put under the microscope for some questionable decisions ahead of a high-pressure penalty shootout that ultimately proved decisive as Italy claimed the Euro 2020 title.

Two hours of play was not enough to break a 1-1 deadlock at Wembley Stadium, forcing yet another penalty shootout to decide an outcome at this year's championship.

In the final minute of extra time, Southgate made some strategic substitutions, bringing on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho for their perceived experience from the penalty spot.

But it'd soon backfire on the England manager, with both men missing their attempts, throwing the onus on teen star Bukayo Saka to keep England in the match.

Stepping up to the plate with the weight of Europe watching, Saka would have his timid attempt stopped by the domineering presence of Gianluigi Donnarumma between the sticks, and with it the hopes of millions across England.

However, questions have been asked as to why Saka, a youngster with relatively no international experience, was thrown under the bus when the likes of Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling – two far more experienced players – stood by watching.

"Football is a cruel game. The two substitutes that Gareth Southgate made a minute before the penalty shootout, were Sancho and Rashford. It could have been a stroke of genius but it didn't work out that way," former EPL star Michael Bridges told Optus Sport.

"And the 19-year-old, Saka, to put that much pressure on him to take the fifth penalty when I see a man in Grealish, who was on the side. I'm very surprised he was given the responsibility as the fifth because it can be a decisive one. I hope it doesn't affect him too much."

Socceroos legend John Aloisi echoed that take.

"I feel for Saka, especially him, he's only a young kid. Hopefully, he gets over it and has the career everyone's expecting because it is tough," he said.

"He had such a good tournament, such a positive player, such a talent, and then to be put in such a position and miss, it's going to be heartbreaking for him."

England legend Alan Shearer was far more forthright in his assessment.

"A big, big ask to put two players on with a minute to go to say you're going to take a penalty for us," he said.

a close up of a football field: Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy saves England's fifth, and the decisive penalty in a penalty shoot out from Bukayo Saka

Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy saves England's fifth, and the decisive penalty in a penalty shoot-out from Bukayo Saka

"You're under enough pressure anyway as a player but the extra pressure you've put on those individuals when you've had no feel of the football, not involved in the game at all and then you're put in that situation. It's a big, big ask.

"When you've not played a huge part in the tournament though, or the game, then to come on and be asked for a minute. Mentally in that situation, you've got to get yourself right. You've not kicked a football. You've been sat on your backside for three hours."

Former Manchester United star Roy Keane was disappointed Saka was hung out to dry by his more experienced teammates.

"If you're Sterling or Grealish, you cannot sit there and watch a kid walk up ahead of you, you can't," he told ITV Sport.

a group of people playing football on a field: England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his penalty miss following the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday July 11, 2021. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his penalty miss following the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London. 

"You can't sit there and go 'I see a young kid, 19-year-old, a child [Saka], walking up in front of me, and I've played a lot more games, I've got a lot more experience'.

"Sterling, who has won a lot more games, won trophies. Gareth might have been thinking he's going to be six or seven, you can't sit there. That must be hard to take, you've got to go to this young kid and say I'll step up before you."

Fronting up at full-time, Southgate shouldered the responsibility for the bungled penalty shootout, shielding his players from the inevitable fallout to come.

"We prepared as well as we could for the [penalty shootout], that's my responsibility, I chose the guys to take the kicks. In the end, we weren't quite able to see the game through in the normal regulation time," Southgate told the BBC.

Domenico Berardi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessandro Florenzi are posing for a picture: Donnarumma was a giant between the sticks to send Italy to glory.

Donnarumma was a giant between the sticks to send Italy to glory.

"It was a gamble, but if we gambled early we may have lost the game in normal time anyway."

On handing the decisive penalty to 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, Southgate said: "That's my decision to give him that penalty, that's totally my responsibility. It's not him or Marcus or Jadon, we work together, we work through them in training, that's the order we came to. That's my call as a coach."

2 Comments

  • Suvir

    Suvir

    11:46 AM, 13-07-2021

    Everyone’s an expert when things go wrong. Well done to Italy for the win.

    0 Reply
  • hasan

    hasan

    6:33 AM, 12-07-2021

    It's bad news to England they lose

    0 Reply

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