MARK HATELEY has questioned the management of Gareth Southgate after England’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in the final of the European Championships.
The Three Lions fell at the final hurdle despite taking an early lead in the Wembley showdown and defeat ultimately followed after Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho all missed from the penalty spot.
Both Rashford and Sancho were brought on in the last minute of extra time ahead of the penalties, while Saka was introduced during the 70th minute of normal time.
Former England striker Hateley has been impressed with his country’s showing over the course of the tournament, but he insists Southgate got it all wrong in the final moments.
“I look back on Euro 2020 with excitement, like most football purists,” Hateley explained. “It was a great tournament. People have made big decisions on where England are right now and how far they’ve come and rightly so.
“It was a competition where Gareth wanted to progress further than he did when taking the national team to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and he’s achieved that, which is what I’m focusing on right now.
“A lot of questions were asked of him and why he made this or that decision – like why he played right-footed Kieran Trippier as a left-back etc – and I think he answered them and he’s come out on top.
“But last night he made a big error with the penalties in asking two players who’d barely been on the pitch for two minutes to take one.
“Then there was Bukayo Saka, the least experienced member of the squad. He just looked lost when he came on. I don’t think he coped with the situation and I expected Gareth to do a Jack Grealish by replacing a substitute with someone else.
“Instead, he did that with Jordan Henderson, who, as one of the older heads, you would have imagined would have stayed on. Saka lost his way on Sunday night: he didn’t know what he was doing and you could see by the way he was playing that he was looking for help.”
The trio who missed penalties were the subject of sickening racist abuse through their social media channels after Sunday’s match.
Hateley was inducted into Show Racism The Red Card’s Hall of Fame in 2017, but he was reluctant to “publicise the idiots” behind the shocking hate messages.
He continued: “I feel sorry for Saka and I think Arsenal will have a hard job in getting him back to where they need to get him back to for the Premier League. There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this. When you have a 6’ 5” goalkeeper making the goals look like five-a-side goals you need to make the right choices.
“You need the perfect penalty and it has to be hit with pace. You can’t be strolling up and waiting for him to lie down because when he does that he’s almost touching the post anyway. Harry Kane and Harry Maguire took great penalties and then…
“Rashford’s normally good on penalties but he hadn’t been in the game and, in his head, he wasn’t at pace with it. It is what it is: we got to a final and lost on penalties but at least we lost in a final this time.
“I’m not going to talk about the abuse the players received after missing those penalties because I don’t want to publicise these idiots. I’d rather they just faded away into the background because this should be about learning from what happened and then moving on with qualification for Qatar. All being well, this group of players should still be together for that tournament.”
Southgate claimed that he had chosen his five penalty takers before Sunday’s game as he defended his team following the shootout defeat.
When asked if Southgate should have changed his mind, Hateley responded: “Absolutely. I would have expected some of the more experienced players to take Saka out of the firing line but, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the manager and the backroom staff to do that.
“Gareth will reflect on this: he’ll sit down with his team in the next week and go over the good and bad things that happened – and there weren’t too many bad things.
“We lost on penalties to the team which was, for me, the best in the competition and one of the favourites to win it before a ball had been kicked. They have good guys with plenty of Champions League experience.
“They have a 22-year-old goalkeeper who’s been playing first-team football since he was 16 and two centre-halves at 36 and 34 who just ooze experience and pull the strings of the people in front of them.
“Then you have Marco Verratti, who’s under pressure to play well every week for Paris St Germain.”