Southgate tells heartbroken England stars to bounce back from Euro final agony

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England manager Gareth Southgate (L) and his players after the Euro 2020 final
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Gareth Southgate urged England to use the pain of their Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy to fuel success in the future as the Three Lions boss accepted the blame for their heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat.

England failed to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed penalties at Wembley on Sunday.

Southgate's side had made a dream start thanks to Luke Shaw's second-minute goal, but Italy showed their class to hit back through Leonardo Bonucci's second-half equaliser.

When it came to penalties, Southgate gambled by sending on late substitutes Rashford and Sancho specifically for their prowess from the spot.

The move backfired as England suffered the latest in a long line of bitter shoot-out defeats at major tournaments.

"That is my responsibility. I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation," Southgate said.

"It is my decision to give Saka that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon.

"Marcus and Jadon have been by far the best in the lead-in. It was a gamble (to bring them on), but if we gamble earlier we maybe lose the game in extra time."

England had actually won their last two penalty shoot-outs against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and against Switzerland in the 2019 Nations League.

But even those successes weren't enough to keep Southgate's players from losing their nerve when the stakes were highest.

With over 60,000 fans roaring them on and millions more watching at home, sporting immortality beckoned for England if they had won the shoot-out.

- 'Incredible memories' -

Jordan Pickford did his part with two saves and Southgate insisted he had no regrets about his picks for the penalty takers.

"We've tracked them, what they've done with their clubs over a long period of time and what they've shown in training as well," Southgate said.

"That's the process that worked for us in Russia and in the Nations League. Tonight it didn't quite work."

Southgate admitted his side's lack of composure on the ball proved fatal as they allowed Italy to regain their composure following Shaw's opener.

"We did start well. They were bound to have a spell where they came into the game," Southgate said.

"We didn't keep the ball well enough in that initial period in the second half. It was our lack of composure in possession that turned the game. The way they used the ball was better than us."

After an uplifting run to their first European Championship final featuring memorable knockout stage wins over Germany, Ukraine and Denmark, Southgate and his players have to pick up the pieces after seeing their dreams shattered.

They have the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to aim for and Southgate believes they will be better for the experience of their Euro run.

"At the moment the players are understandably really quiet. Prince William has just been down to see them in the dressing room and has rightly thanked them for what they've done and being fulsome in his praise," Southgate said.

"I said we could have no recriminations. We win and lose together. They've got to walk away from here with their heads held high.

"They've done more than any other team in the last 50 or so years. In terms of the players, they should be incredibly proud of what they've done."

Mulling over the missed opportunity to lead England to a long-awaited major title, Southgate said he hoped the thrilling journey at least partially made up for the bitter ending.

"Tonight the balloon is burst isn't it? The feeling will be very empty I know," he said.

"That's hard for everyone to take. We wanted to give everyone one more night to continue the biggest party ever.

"We haven't been able to do that but I hope we've given everybody some incredible memories."

smg/mw

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