Euro 2020: Final is no failure for England, it is a glimpse of the future

It was 55 years. Then it was 45 minutes. However England yet again missed out on their first major silverware since Hurst, Charlton et al defeated West Germany at Wembley all those years ago in 1966.

On Sunday night, it was all going so well and that albatross was on its way after Luke Shaw gave England a dream start against Italy in the Euro 2020 final in London — 60,000-plus fans roaring in delight as the Manchester United man seemed to choose a perfect stage to score his first goal for the ‘Three Lions’.

Gareth Southgate’s men seemed to be in the ascendancy and had chances to double their lead before the break.

However, the true grit of Roberto Mancini’s men in blue began to tell and they levelled through Leonardo Bonucci after the break, when he poked home after England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had done well to push Marco Verratti’s effort on to the woodwork.

Chances came and went at either end as the game wore on and soon enough we were through 120 minutes and England were facing another penalty shoot-out.

We all know the story from there ... More heartbreak from 12 yards for England as they went down 3-2 on spot-kicks.

It may seem like a so-near-yet-so-far tale for Southgate’s men as they succumbed to another harrowing demise — on penalties of all things yet again.

But this is not another pity story full of Gazza tears and Robson injuries.

This is a new dawn.

What Southgate has done should be embraced as the future. Definitely not as another miss.

This bunch of lads, many of whom were playing in their first major finals, have achieved what the likes of John Barnes, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham, Paul Scholes (I could go on) could never do. They got to the final of a major competition — and very nearly, unbelievably, took football ‘home’.

It is overused — especially by me when describing this team — but to a man they were outstanding over the three weeks.
Take a look:

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford — often the butt of jokes on Merseyside for his bloopers while playing for Everton — was probably the standout keeper of the tournament with at least five world-class and match-winning saves. He even halted a brilliant penalty in the shoot-out to Italy.
Kyle Walker and John Stones — The Manchester City boys were a solid wall at the back and a major threat going forward
Harry Maguire — Much-maligned and injured as the tournament began, he was stellar and very nearly won England the match in 90 minutes. A true leader
Kieran Trippier — A superb floated cross for Shaw’s opener in the final summed up his cameo role
Kalvin Phillips — Absolute revelation. We have seen him do his thing for Leeds United, but the ease with which he stepped up to mix it with the big boys was a true reflection of Southgate’s vision
Declan Rice — I have never seen more dedication to the cause and ready to take a bullet for his teammates, if it helps them on their way. No messing
Luke Shaw — Ridiculed as a fat third-string player by Jose Mourinho, this is a man on a mission to set the record straight
Raheem Sterling — Stepped up when he had to and led the line as if a poor, by his standards, season with Man City had never happened
Mason Mount — Once again proved what an asset he will be for Chelsea this season as he seems to be the heartbeat behind the strikers
Harry Kane — Slow-burning start, but you cannot keep talent like his quiet, as he proved in the knockout stages when England needed their skipper
Jack Grealish — The cameo man. Showed true professionalism and patience and always delivered what was asked from him when he came of the bench.

That is just the main men. So many others contributed as well and — sorry — to a man, on these past few weeks, there are very few teams on the planet that would not want every one of them in their line-up.

England lost by the finest of margins. On another day, we would be talking about knighthoods.
This is no sad failure. This is a triumph, a revelation, and things will be bigger and brighter from here on in. Maybe, just maybe, with a silver lining next time.



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