After reaching the finals the Three Lions were beaten by their arch-rival in penalties. The trophy is not coming home but will go to Rome.
Luke Shaw got Gareth Southgate’s side off to the perfect start after two minutes but Leonardo Bonucci’s equaliser in the second half tied a game in which chances came at a premium.
Moments became more tense as both sides went to penalties.
Jordan Pickford did his best in the shootout with some heroic goalkeeping before Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed, having both been brought on to take a penalty.
Bukayo Saka then missed the decisive spot kick to give Italy the trophy.
England captain Harry Kane says his side gave everything they could speaking to BBC Sport post-match.
“The boys couldn’t have given more. Penalties obviously, it’s the worst feeling in the world when you lose,” Kane said. “It’s been a fantastic tournament and we should hold our heads up high but of course it’s going to hurt now, it’s going to hurt for a while. We’re on the right track and we’re building and hopefully we can progress from this next year.”
“We’re playing against a very good side. We got off to the perfect start. Maybe dropped a little bit too deep. Sometimes when you score that early it’s easy to try and soak up the pressure and try hold onto that and that’s probably what happened. They had a lot of the ball, they had a lot of possession but to be fair we looked fairly in control. We didn’t create too many chances then obviously they got their breakthrough from the set-piece and then after that it was probably a 50/50.
“In extra-time we grew into the game, had a few half-chances then obviously penalties is penalties. We went through our process. The boys did everything they could, it just wasn’t our night.”
England fans may not have a victory to celebrate but they certainly have a team to be proud of.
England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted England’s penalty shootout takers were down to him.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Southgate revealed: “We prepared as well as we could for the [penalty shootout], that’s my responsibility, I chose the guys to take the kicks. In the end, we weren’t quite able to see the game through in the normal regulation time.
On handing the fifth penalty to 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, he said: “That’s my decision to give him that penalty, that’s totally my responsibility. It’s not him or Marcus or Jadon, we work together, we work through them in training, that’s the order we came to. That’s my call as a coach.”
On Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, he lamented: “That’s always the risk that you run, but they’ve been by far the best and to get all those attacking players on the pitch you have to do it late. It was a gamble, but if we gambled early, we may have lost the game in normal time anyway. We did start well, I think our system worked well against theirs.”
Despite the result, credit goes to Gareth Southgate, who brought his team to the finals after 55 years.
He took charge of the team after their exit in the Euro 2016 quarter finals following a defeat to unfancied Iceland.
Southgate, a former defender, was the unlikeliest contender to take charge. He was known more for his failures – missing the penalty in the 1996 Euro semi-final against Germany and coaching a Middlesbrough side to relegation and getting sacked from the position.
He also coached the England under-21 that failed to do much. However, things at the senior level have changed under him. England reached the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup – their first in a major international tournament since Euro 1996 and now they were on the cusp of winning their first-ever Euro.
Southgate isn’t known for his win-at-all-cost attitude and as someone who only wants to see his players win on the football field. He has encouraged his players to take up social issues like ‘taking the knee’, which is a stance against racial abuse. He is also known to be an empathetic person, someone who can take time off from the delirium of victory and visit the opposition camp to console players as he did to Mateus Uribe, a Colombian player, whose missed penalty had handed England a place in the quarter-finals of 2018 World Cup.
Former Germany player Philipp Lahm has been effusive in his praise of him. “Southgate has managed to convey to his highly-paid stars that they are not only playing football. He lets them take on social responsibility. That creates an identity,” Lahm had written in The Guardian.
“Second, he has made his team believe in his plan, which is nobody will score against us easily or quickly.”
Whatever the result, we are proud of England for bringing about much hope and uniting us all as a nation. We win together and we lose together.