It was penalty shootout heartbreak again for England and Gareth Southgate, as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed from the spot in a crushing Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
When Jordan Pickford saved from Andrea Belotti there was real hope of a first major trophy in 55 years and ultimate redemption for Southgate, who missed a decisive spot-kick in the semi-final of Euro 96, but from the brink of glory in front of their own supporters at Wembley, England collapsed.
Rashford rolled a tame shot against the post and Sancho and Saka saw Gianluigi Donnarumma save their efforts in a 3-2 shootout defeat, sparking celebrations from the Italian players and the small but vocal cluster of their fans at the other end of the pitch.
Luke Shaw had given England a dream start, scoring his first goal for his country and the fastest of a Euros final ever, when he met a deep cross with a thumping half-volley just three minutes in. Southgate’s surprise wing-back system was causing Italy real problems but Roberto Mancini’s side wrestled control of possession and set about wearing their opponents down.
The penalty shoot-out
The deserved equaliser eventually came from a set-piece, with veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci tapping in after a scramble on 67 minutes and, at 34 years old, becoming the oldest goalscorer in a Euros final. He was also one of three Italians to find the net from 12 yards at the end of extra-time to seal their second Euros crown, after their first in 1968.
The manager will be able to talk about the progress of his young side, how they have made the country unite behind them in hope, and point to a chance to go again at the World Cup in 16 months’ time. But there will also be a cold, cruel realization that England’s glorious chance to win it on their own patch was lost.