There has been a huge gallop of questions around England manager Gareth Southgate’s decisions with the penalty takers against Italy in the Euro 2020 final. He opted for teenage Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka to take England’s decisive fifth spot-kick in the shootout.
The quality of the penalty taken, which was saved by Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma with relative ease, was also a factor which raised the question. Several fans, experts, and even players were taken aback when Saka saw his penalty saved to declare Italy European champions.
With questions around the selected takers, Jack Grealish was also subject to indirect criticism for not stepping up to take a spot-kick. However, the Aston Villa attacking midfielder responded by saying that he wanted to take one, but wasn’t allowed to.
Despite the fact that Saka had never taken a penalty for England’s national team, Southgate seemed to have his plausible reasons for selecting him. England’s players had been practicing penalties after every training session since September, according to numerous reports, and the coaches had been collecting notes. This was a key factor in determining the shot takers in case the match fell to a shootout.
No England player had a better penalty record in training since Saka received his first call-up in October and joined those sessions. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, the two other players who missed penalties for England, had also been among the team’s top performers from the spot in these penalty sessions.
Three of Southgate’s first five takers were under the age of 23. This very well demonstrated the head coach’s belief in the significance of constant practice and his disregard for age or experience as a factor. He had also been dependent on the young players in his squad to deliver the goods in normal time throughout the tournament. It only seemed favorable for him to trust his youngsters in a crucial moment like that.