It felt like it was meant to be for England; it was almost too perfect a script for the footballing gods to follow. The headlines wrote themselves as the Three Lions, led by Gareth Southgate, stepped up for a penalty shootout in the final of Euro 2020. It looked to be the ultimate redemption story.
Southgate, the man who missed in 96 to the man who led England to a moment 55 years in the waiting. That was meant to be the headline. That was meant to be the heartwarming narrative followed by the camera panning away to the sweet symphony of Sweet Caroline. But Italy had other ideas. Football’s route home was hijacked, diverted on its way by the Italians disguised as road workers. For 67 blissful minutes, football was well and truly on its way to England before Leonardo Bonucci offered a place in Rome.
Euro 2020 Final: England Must Take Positives
Football Came Rome
The equaliser was meant to be nothing more than a setback, the chaotic middle of the script before the problem is resolved for the happy ending. Even as England went to penalties, a silver medal did not come to mind for this was Southgate’s redemption. Three misses later, however, and the script had been torn to shreds, replaced by Roberto Mancini’s version of the story which, in fairness, is a fitting narrative in its own right.
You could have heard a pin drop in every pub in the country when Bukayo Saka saw his penalty saved by player of the tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma. That, and every English heart breaking in two; every recital of ‘Three Lions’ slowly coming to a halt and Sweet Caroline being discarded from the Spotify playlist.
Yet, when the storm settled, there was an overwhelming feeling of pride and admiration for the players- by the real fans. It was pride that hadn’t been felt before; a sense that this was only the beginning; that we will bounce back; that it is not the end. Because it is not a bygone conclusion for this generation. They are only just getting started. Such is their youthful vibrancy, Southgate’s squad will only learn from this experience, remember this feeling and ensure they never have to experience it again.
Discrimination Rears Its Ugly Head Once More
The talk around the country should centre around pride right now. It should be a time of coming together but, unfortunately, we’ve come to expect chaos and abuse in the face of loss. Now should be a time of consoling Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for people to exorcise their racist demons that they’ve struggled to keep locked away with win after win.
It should not act as an excuse to vandalise or to fight and brawl. Other countries come together following a final defeat. Based on the Euro 2020 final, England couldn’t be more divided. It doesn’t matter how small the minority of abusers is, the fact that they’re big enough to hear worldwide creates an overwhelming problem that may be too late to solve unless the current and next generation is educated on the matter or social media platforms step up.
It hurts that, as soon as Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed, abuse was guaranteed. We shouldn’t be used to it by now. The fact we are used to it tells the story of just how big the issue is. And unless people are prevented the easy access handed to them courtesy of social media, the problem will only continue to grow.
Roberto Mancini Was Busy Writing His Own Story
Such was the certainty of football’s route home, not many stopped to consider Roberto Mancini and Italy’s story. Whilst Southgate’s redemption seemed the likeliest story, it was Mancini’s which took centre-stage. He rarely played as a player thanks to the legendary Roberto Baggio. Now the manager, he has taken an Italian side who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup all the way to silverware at the Euros.
Mancini is the epitome of class, from the suits with not a thread out of place to the belting national anthem so full of passion. He has transformed this Italian side. As soon as he stepped through the doors, everything bad about the old-fashioned way was binned, replaced by the modern-day ruthlessness we saw at the Euros. Somehow, Mancini found a way to combine the old-fashioned resilient, block the ball with your face if needed, defending with the modern approach of pressing on the front foot. He has created a side centred around perfection.
34 games unbeaten, Italy more than deserved to win at Wembley.
England Must Go Again After Euro 2020 Final
The focus must now turn to the World Cup where England will have that feeling of penalty loss in the back of their minds as motivation to never feel it again. The squad will be better, more equipped and ready to create moments to remember once more. So get behind this team, simply support, it’s in the job title after all.
Get ready to put Sweet Caroline back on your playlist alongside Three Lions because, come 2022, we’re set to do it all over again but even bigger and better.
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