Why, oh why did it have to be penalties? | Matt Mohan-Hickson

And so once more it came down to penalties.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 5:11 pm
Bukayo Saka of England is consoled by Gareth Southgate following England's defeat by Italy. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

After three weeks of excitement, drama and intrigue, it came down to spot kicks.

It was almost inevitable really, wasn’t it?

Somehow we had managed to avoid penalties all the way to the final.

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We had overcome first Germany and then our semi-final hoodoo.

And yet somehow it had not come down to penalties: which meant that it was inevitable that the final of all games would be decided by penalties.

We were bold. We put on penalty experts. But it was not enough. This time at least.

It is a disappointment for sure but let us not forget the ride that has come before it.

We went five games without conceding a goal. We beat Germany in a major tournament. Germany!

This England of Gareth Southgate took us all the way to a final and played better than any Three Lions side I can remember in my life time.

The disappointment will sting, but not to sound cheesy, I am thankful for the journey.

We have seen the country come together. After 18 months of despair, these boys have brought us joy, excitement and triumph.

An untold number of pints have been thrown in the air. It’s Coming Home has been chanted over and over.

We have tried our hands at the John Barnes rap from World in Motion and sung Sweet Caroline until our voices have become sore.

After everything that happened since the words Covid-19 were first uttered in January 2020, this has been the high-water mark.

Gareth and the boys have brought our country together and we should be thankful for it.

The win over Denmark is sure to be one that lives on long in our collective folk memory. To be passed down to England fans yet to come, the way Italia 90 or Euro 96 have been.

And more importantly, this run does not feel like a fluke.

You can just see these Three Lions dusting themselves down and picking themselves up and going again in Qatar 2022.

After all France had to lose a major final in 2016 before they could win one. Not to tempt fate or the like.

But that is for the future. Right now we are hurting and yet we have so much to be proud of. This tournament has been one that will live on long in our memory.

I hope the missed penalty takers don’t take it so hard

I would not be brave enough to take a penalty.

The walk, the pressure and then the actual attempt itself would be far too much for a mere mortal to handle.

So, any of the England players who stepped up on Sunday night should be commended.

They should all hold their heads high and be proud of themselves for taking on the daunting task.

Rashford, Sancho and Saka are far braver men than I would have ever been.

And they will learn from this, so the next time we are in a shootout, we can come out victorious.

Hopefully they can find a way to comfort themselves and look past the misses.

We will just have to chalk this up to another glorious failure.

One we can learn from going forward and can use as inspiration next time we face a tournament shootout – hopefully it is a while before that though.

But right now my thoughts are with Rashford, Sancho and Saka. Those who dared to try for glory but came up just short.

I wish the final hadn’t been on Sunday night

It is quite ridiculous that it kicked off at 8pm. Especially as the game was taking place in England and not a different time zone.

I am sure we were all equally as bleary eyed on Monday morning.

But most of all I wish I hadn’t had quite so many beers, I wish I hadn’t given into the nerves and the tension.

Because a sore head is not the best way to start the week: If only it had been on Saturday or even on Sunday afternoon.

At least I would have had time to get over the result as well as sober up a bit before trying to sleep.

There has been a lot of mistakes in the organising of this tournament by UEFA, but it feels like the weirdly late kick off for the final is among the worst.

Not quite as bad as giving games to Hungary or Baku, but still a weird decision.

Hopefully the rest of the week will be a much needed improvement on how I feel right now on Monday morning.