Keane criticises England's senior stars for letting Saka take penalty

‘If you’re Grealish or Sterling, you can’t have a young kid step up in front of you’: Roy Keane slams England’s senior players – including Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish – for letting Bukayo Saka, 19, take crucial penalty in Euro 2020 defeat

  • England lost the European Championship final to Italy at Wembley Stadium
  • Three Lions fell to a heartbreaking 3-2 loss on penalties after a 1-1 draw
  • Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all failed to score spot-kicks
  • But Roy Keane criticised other England stars for not protecting 19-year-old Saka
  • He argued that more experienced players should have taken penalties instead 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

Roy Keane has criticised England’s senior stars – in particular Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish – for not leading by example by taking a penalty kick in their shootout defeat by Italy.

England lost the Euro 2020 final after 19-year-old Bukayo Saka missed the crucial fifth and final spot-kick, following earlier misses by Marcus Rashford, 23, and Jadon Sancho, 21, to see the Three Lions defeated 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The Arsenal starlet had to score to keep England’s hopes alive but he saw his penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Roy Keane had sympathy with the winger though, insisting more senior players should have stepped up instead to take the pressure off him. 

‘If you’re Grealish or Sterling, you can’t have a young kid step up in front of you,’ the former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United captain told ITV. 

‘You can’t sit there and say “I see a 19-year-old kid walk in front of me, when I’ve played a lot more games, a lot more experience…” and Sterling, who has won trophies.

Bukayo Saka (centre) is consoled by his England team-mates after his crucial penalty miss led to Italy winning the European Championship after a dramatic shootout

19-year-old Saka watches as his penalty is saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma

Roy Keane was scathing of England’s senior players for not protecting Saka in the shootout

‘I’m not saying he wasn’t prepared, he might have been (penalty taker) six or seven, (but) you can’t sit there. It must be hard to take. You’ve got to get in front of this kid and say “listen, I’m gonna step up in front of you”.’

Sterling, 26, is one of England’s first-choice forwards, while Grealish, 25, was one of boss Gareth Southgate’s go-to players from the bench. Harry Kane, 27, and Harry Maguire, 28, scored their penalties. Other senior players in the squad include Jordan Henderson, 31, Kyle Walker, 31, John Stones, 27, and Luke Shaw, 26.

Southgate explained after the game that it was his decision to select Saka as one of the penalty takers over the more experienced players in his squad.

‘That is my responsibility,’ Southgate said. ‘I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation. We win and lose together as a team. They have been tight throughout and that’s how it needs to stay. It is my decision to give him that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon. We worked through them in training. That is the order we came to.

‘What they have to know is none of them are on their own. We win and lose as a team. Penalties are my call. We worked in training. It’s not down to the players. Tonight it hasn’t gone for us. We know they were the best takers we had left on the pitch. Of course it’s going to be heartbreaking for the boys but they are not to blame for that.

‘(Saka’s) not on his own. He’s such a super boy. He’s been a star and he’s going to continue to be a star. We’ve got to be there to support and help him. He’ll get a lot of love from outside because of what he’s done in this tournament.’

On his gamble of introducing Rashford and Sancho for the shootout without having any other time on the pitch, Southgate said: ‘That’s always the risk you run but they’ve been by far the best in the lead-in. To get all those attacking players on you have to do it late. It was a gamble but if you gamble earlier you maybe lose in extra time anyway.’ 

Former England right-back Gary Neville backed up Southgate’s explanation, insisting that England’s order of takers would have been based on performance in practising penalties in training rather than volunteering, as Keane had suggested.

‘When we saw Saka walk up we probably expected to see Grealish or Sterling go up first before him,’ Neville responded.

‘But they would have looked at who’s missed, when, who’s taken one. Grealish hasn’t taken one in two seasons. So obviously there’s something wrong there with his penalty taking. And Gareth will have looked at that and brought (on as substitutes) the boys most likely to score, in his mind.

‘They would have worked out over the last few weeks in camp, done sessions on it, looked at who’s scoring the most and got the best record. It would be scientific, it would be data-led.

‘Marcus does everything right apart from the important thing. That one (Sancho’s) you’d argue is a poorer pen. They’re always getting saved when the goalkeeper goes that way. This one (Saka’s) as well really. He’s such a great goalkeeper and when he goes that side he’s got a great chance of saving it, he’s so big.’

Jadon Sancho (centre) and Marcus Rashford (right) also missed penalties after being brought on by boss Gareth Southgate (left) in the dying second of extra time

Rashford and Sancho react in horror after seeing their penalties fail to hit the net

Former England striker Ian Wright backed up Neville’s stance, insisting that Rashford and Sancho’s very late introductions to the game as subs in stoppage time of extra time were made purely with penalties in mind.

‘I’m sure they spoke before and these players would have already known they were taking one,’ Wright said. ‘That’s why Rashford and Sancho came on when they did.

‘Some players say they won’t take one. Players that do take them you hope they can take them. But the pressure in this stadium, in the final, it’s more than the kind of pressure I can even think about it. Even Rashford’s penalty, he sent him the wrong way but he’s trying to get it into the side netting and he’s missed the goal.’ 

Keane though disagreed with Neville, his former United team-mate, insisting the magnitude of the occasion could not be replicated in training sessions.

‘I’m intrigued about when they say people would have planned for this (with) sport science, data… (but) you can’t replicate this,’ he added.

‘You can’t replicate walking up in a huge final in front of your supporters with a huge goalkeeper in front of you. As Mike Tyson once said: “everyone’s got a plan until they’re punched in the face.” You’re facing a giant of a goalkeeper. Make the keeper save it, hit the target, but you can’t replicate this, Gary. For all their plans it didn’t work.’

Italy lift the trophy to celebrate winning the Euros for the first time since 1968

Frank Lampard, meanwhile, felt it was tough to confidently select who should have taken England’s penalties, and that Sterling stepping up might not have been the best option. 

He also suggested that the method of slowly approaching the ball with shuffling feet before shooting – which is in part an attempt to deceive the goalkeeper – is perhaps not suited to the high pressure of shootouts. Rashford and Saka both used that method.

The former England and Chelsea midfielder also congratulated Italy on their victory, after they came behind in 90 minutes to earn a 1-1 draw, Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half tap-in cancelling out a second minute-opener from Shaw. 

‘From a purely football perspective, Italy were deserved winners,’ Lampard said on the BBC.

‘In the training ground behind closed doors, that shuffle and wait style (of taking penalties) is easier. It’s a different level of pressure when you’re in the stadium. 

‘I’m not sure Raheem is absolutely a penalty taker at heart. You’re trying to analyse things that are so tough to analyse.’ 

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