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 criticises England’s senior players for allowing Bukayo Saka to take crucial penalty which led to England’s Euro 2020 final defeat

  • England lost the European Championship final to Italy at Wembley Stadium
  • Three Lions fell to a heart-breaking 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 England stars for not protecting 19-year-old Saka 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

Roy Keane has criticised England’s senior stars 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 final spot-kick to see the Three Lions defeated 3-2 on penalties following earlier misses by Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

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

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

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

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 [Jack] Grealish or [Raheem] Sterling, you can’t have a young kid step up in front of you’ the former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United midfielder 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’s who has won trophies.

Jack Grealish (left) was criticised by Keane for not standing up to take a penalty

Fellow senior star Raheem Sterling was also the target of Keane’s verbal attack

‘I’m not saying he wasn’t prepared he might have been six or seven, 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”‘.

Former England right-back Gary Neville though believes England’s order would have been justified on performance in practising penalties rather than be chosen on a volunteer basis.

‘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 the boys most likely to score in his mind.

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

Former England striker Ian Wright backed up Neville’s stance insisting that Rashford and Sancho’s late introductions to the game as stoppage time subs 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 he’s missed the goal.

Neville claimed that England’s penalty taking order would have been chosen based on previous sessions of spot-kicks in training and who had performed best.

Saka’s miss ensured England lost the Euro 2020 final as he watches his penalty saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma

‘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,’ Neville added.

‘Marcus does everything right apart from the important thing. That one you’d argue is a poorer pen (Sancho) they’re always getting saved when the goalkeeper goes that way. This one as well really (Saka). 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.’

Keane though disagreed with the stance taken by his former United team-mate regarding selecting England’s penalty takers, insisting the moment of the occasion could not be replicated by data from training sessions.

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

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

‘You can’t replicate walking up 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.’

Frank Lampard meanwhile felt it was too tough to confidently select England’s penalty takers, and that Sterling stepping up may not have been the best option.

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

‘From a purely football perspective, Italy were deserved winners, ‘Lampard told 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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