Football fans have been reacting and reflecting on a historic tournament after England’s devastating defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
Loss in elite level sport will always be tough to take – but this one truly stings.
It was a triumphant run to the final by a team that captured the hearts of the nation and brought people together after a tough 15 months, but millions of people right across the UK are waking up this morning to the reality sinking in that Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad couldn’t quite clinch the win to bring home England’s first international victory since 1966.
After taking an early lead within the first three minutes of the match thanks to a goal by Manchester United left back Luke Shaw, Italy equalised in the second half as seasoned Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci found the back of the net.
The game subsequently ran through extra time to be taken down to penalties.
Youngsters Bukayo Saka, 19, Marcus Rashford, 23, and Jadon Sancho, 21, all missed penalties – leaving Italy with a 3-2 victory.
Burdened with a unique feeling that most of us will never experience, the players were understandably seen in tears after the game, but were embraced by their England teammates and Southgate – who admitted in a post-match interview that he had chosen who should take the penalties, saying: “I decided on the penalty takers based on what we’ve done in training.
“Nobody is on their own – that’s my call and it totally rests on me.”
“The opportunity was there for us, we didn’t quite take it and that’s going to hurt for a very long time,” England captain Harry Kane also said after the match.
“But that’s football and we have to get over it and move on.
“We have to build belief from this, we have a great young squad [so] we have to dust ourselves down, hold our heads high and get ready for [the 2022 World Cup].”
Although the loss was agonising for fans, countless public figures and famous names have taken to social media to issue encouraging messages to a team that has provided the nation with so much hope over the last month.
The Duke of Cambridge, who was present at Wembley alongside the The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George, lead the plaudits.
Several other famous names, including Mancs and Mancs by association, also had their say.
Sadly, although there has been an outpouring of support, it has been confirmed that Saka, Rashford, and Sancho have all been subjected to abhorrent racist discrimination on social media – which the FA said it “strongly condemns” and has labelled “disgusting”.
Police said they were investigating “racist and offensive” messages on social media.
The FA added: “We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team [and] we will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”
“We stand with our players,” the England team said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Boris has also tweeted this morning to say that: “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.
“Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also said in a tweet this morning that: “The entire England team have brought us together and given us memories that will last a life time. They represent the best of us.
“Anyone racially abusing them is a disgrace and doesn’t represent us at all.
“More can and must be done to stop online abuse.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed last night a total of 45 arrests were made in connection with policing the Euro 2020 final, which comes after thousands of fans gathered at Wembley prior to kick-off, with video footage showing dozens of people suddenly running into the area underneath the stadium stands and up the stairs.
Staff wearing hi-vis jackets tried to stop the crowds – but were overwhelmed.
Further scenes of public disturbance and violence involving members of the public following the final whistle have since emerged on social media in the early hours in the morning.
Police are yet to issue an updated statement on the matter.
Attempting to lift spirits as the reality sets in this morning, England’s official Twitter account shared some sentimental words referencing the ‘Football’s Coming Home’ chant – which has been the soundtrack to another English summer – with a half-and-half picture of a grassroots pitch and Wembley Stadium.
“Coming home? Perhaps it was here all along.”
2022, we come back stronger.
Featured Image – Twitter (@EURO2020)