After mocking England with unfettered relish last night, I have succumbed to a bout of contrition and, of course, sobriety.
The mockery was provoked by Arsenal and Manchester United fans, whose wanton desire to appropriate England’s success for their respective clubs cannot be deemed as socially acceptable.
It has to be said that the last three England penalty takers, really young kids, were brave to accept the responsibility in a high-stake game and deserve no abuse from the hideous racists running wild on social media platforms.
I also think that Southgate, having taken England to the semi-final and final of two major competitions, deserves plenty of praise.
That said, he was helped, I think, by the fact that his team took the easiest route to the final, playing every game at home bar one. His adoption of containment, which saw his team try to shut up shop after 20 minutes, wouldn’t look well under serious scrutiny.
One shot on target in 120 minutes of football! As the second half went on England came under stifling pressure.
Each time the ball went forward, it came straight back, as England coughed up possesion by hoofing it forward rather than using it in a more deliberate, measured and incremental way.
That way, they sought survival, not control. They couldn’t construct anything. The Italians, polished in posession and fizzing with no little menace, looked the more likely to win. England invited pressure, which their opponents happily applied.
Pickford, whose unpardonable scything of Van Dijk was a major reason I wanted them to lose, kept England in the game. England were playing for penalties, at which they’re historically abysmal. Their hopes evaporated with the last three kickers.
Southgate, as good as the work he’s done is, I doubt if he’d be in the conversation should there be a vacancy at United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona or PSG. Arsenal or Valencia, perhaps