The Morning After…

Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka who missed the last penalty in the shootout against Italy

Well that’s that, last year’s European Championship is over. Italy beat England in the final last night on penalties. England lost in the semi-final of the, World Cup in 2018. Many people suggested they would go a step further this time, and they did: they lost in a final.

It wasn’t a great game. Finals seldom are – there’s too much at stake for the players to play with any freedom. But it was tense and dramatic and in the end, for England fans and players, heartbreaking. Italy have been the most consistently impressive team in the tournament, and had a far more difficult draw than England (who, in my opinion were very lucky to beat Denmark in the semi-final thanks to a very dodgy penalty) and didn’t have home advantage.

Overall I think Italy deserved to win the tournament and happy for them, though sad a bit for Gareth Southgate who has proved himself the most gentlemanly of managers. The manner of this loss – on penalties yet again – must hurt him, but he will be gracious in defeat. I wish the same could be said of some of the England supporters.

People have been critical of Southgate’s rather defensive tactics for last night’s match. For what it’s worth I think his cautious approach was dictated by his awareness of the weaknesses in his side. He had good attacking players but lacked strength in midfield. Italy were much more tenacious and comfortable in possession. For large parts of last night’s match England were just unable to get the ball; the official possession stats were 65:35 in Italy’s favour. A playmaker in the centre of the park would make a huge difference to England’s chances of landing a major trophy.

The great thing about this young England football team is how it has managed to provide so many positive role models, through its dignified response to racism and embrace of inclusivity, while at the same time respecting the time-honoured English tradition of losing on penalties. They will no doubt be feeling awful right now but they have a lot to build on for the World Cup next year if they can pick themselves up, though they might not get such a favourable draw.

I have enjoyed the tournament. I didn’t watch all the games because I was too busy, but I watched most of the 8pm matches and found them a welcome distraction. As an émigré I no longer feel any obligation to support England, but I don’t feel any need to despise them either so I was able just to enjoy the football. As I said above, I think Italy performed most consistently at a high level throughout the competition but I also enjoyed watching Spain (who would be world-beating if they had a decent striker) and Belgium, either of whom would have been worthy finalists had the draw. I feel a bit sorry for Denmark given what happened in their first match. They can be very proud of the way they rallied to reach the semi-finals without their star player Christian Eriksen.

Anyway, well played Italy! I have quite a few Italian friends and colleagues and I know they’re all delighted. Il Calcio sta tornando a casa…

5 Responses to “The Morning After…”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I seldom watch football but I watched England’s games against Germany and I watched the final. I wanted to beat Germany more.

    We failed to direct three out of five penalties correctly. It’s a problem that Gareth Southgate knows a lot about, but apparently less about the solution…

    I recall Denmark’s victory in euro92 very well; they only got into the competition because Yugoslavia broke up and were unable to send a team, and they won it playing out of their skin in the final.

    Wouldn’t it be great if there were an ‘alternate’ world cup interlacing with the FIFA one, in which the winners of the European Nations competition play their counterparts from Latin America? Who would not want to see Italy vs Argentina next weekend?

    • telescoper Says:

      Germany did not have a strong team this time. They only just scraped through their group. I expected England to beat them and they did so comfortably.

      My record at predicting other games in this championship was abysmal though, especially in the round of 16.

    • Francis Says:

      There used to be – FIFA Confederations Cup – see

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_Confederations_Cup

      Played every 4 years in the country due to host the next world cup, and held the year before the world cup. One aim was to test out the infrastructure, stadiums etc of the host country in advance of the world cup itself. Stopped in 2019.

  2. Robert James Newton Says:

    How many “years of hurt” is it now for England football fans? 🤔 After many years asking this question, I’ve NEVER been given a correct answer. The number is now astronomical 🔭 of course. Well done if you get it right, but no ribbing if you get it wrong! 🌞

    • Robert James Newton Says:

      I’m replying to my own comment, because nobody else has! The answer is 53 years, NOT the often stated 55 years. That’s because the “hurt” began, at the earliest, when England lost at Euro 68. It should be obvious that the hurt didn’t begin in1966. England were world champions until the 1970 World Cup. So you could argue that 51 years is more realistic than 53 years, but 55 years is certainly wrong. The number will get bigger, of course.

      .

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