Obviously we’re all disappointed but these are the lessons we need to learn. I think Gareth and the players will be disappointed with the performance and the way they played when they went 1-0 up. We lost something from our performances in previous games. We dropped off and got deeper and enticed Italy onto us.
They’re a good side and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit to play like they did, not just away from home, but at Wembley.
Italy’s experience came through. They didn’t look like they were going to score, but we dropped so deep it was inevitable they were going to get a free kick or a penalty. We were defending too deep as a whole team – not just the back five but the strikers as well. We lost the reins of the game and in international football you just can’t switch it on when you want to.
There’s a pattern and a rhythm to a game, and we just couldn’t get it once the equaliser went in. We didn’t really dominate in any period, which surprised me. That’s the thing I was disappointed with, especially given the quality of our subs.
Once Chiellini and Bonucci were both booked, we needed to put Sterling or Rashford up against them – they wouldn’t have been able to live with their pace. The emotion of it all was difficult to take because we thought we’ll never have a better chance of winning a tournament.
You’ve got to take a step forward. We were so deep. Yes, they weren’t getting in behind us or creating – although Jordan Pickford made a really good save – but Harry Maguire was forced to head the ball over the bar for a corner before the goal. It was a free kick from a wide position that was played in, so the momentum was in our defensive third.
That’s the pressure they were putting on us. They might not have been clear chances but they put us under territorial pressure. If you win the first ball and then the second ball from a corner you’re normally in business. It was a bit fortunate that it fell to Bonucci, but he followed it in. They won two balls in the air in our box and then after a great save from Pickford they won the third ball. That’s how goals are created – how that came about was the problem we were having.
We put pressure on ourselves in the shootout
Penalty shootouts are about key moments, it’s not all about the pressurised one at the end. When the opposition miss, you need to score, and we didn’t capitalise in those moments, that was the key to it.
People have got to look at that more logically. It’s not about the last one – three players missed a spot kick on Sunday night. Of course, after the event you can criticise and analyse and say ‘why didn’t Sterling take one, he’s scored goals in the tournament and he’s experienced?’ But I’ve seen him take them for Man City and I’ve never been that impressed with him taking them.
Saka obviously put his hand up and said ‘I’m happy to take it, Gareth’. And the rest is history. It was a tough call for Rashford and Sancho as well – and I understand why Gareth did it – but it just worked against them. It’s a massive shame, but that’s the thin line. If those two score and we win the shootout, it’s tactical genius from Gareth. It’s easy to criticise after the event and I would never do that. It’s fractions. Italy weren’t overly convincing in the shootout.
I’m not really a stat man, but Donnarumma has won five out of the last six shootouts for them, so he’s immense. You’ve got to give credit to them as well as look at the negatives from our point of view.
You’ve got to take it on the chin, learn from it and move on from it.
Kane and Maguire could have been the players to miss. Harry missed in the semi-final and you don’t get a chance of a rebound in a penalty shootout. Even experienced, world-class players still miss under pressure, and the pressure in a shootout is even more intense.
England now need to clear it from their DNA, they can’t just sit on it. A lot of players that scored in the shootout against Colombia – Eric Dier for instance, who hit an important penalty – aren’t in this team. It’s a different set of players we’re talking about. Pickford must have felt confident and he did his job in the tournament. When the advantage came our way we gave it back to them.
Saka should see a sports psychologist
The young man needs to try and put it away for the summer, go on holiday and get it out of his mind. Then he needs to address it in a positive way and perhaps he’ll get some help with that.
He could go another ten years in his career before he gets that off his shoulder. Or he could do some work with a psychologist, who will sit him down, go through it with him and turn it around so that he embraces it and feels confident taking penalties.
If he doesn’t do that it’ll take a longer period of time to get out of his system. You gain by experience but you don’t have to wait until you’re 28 or 29 to overcome it.
Visualisation and sports psychology are what he needs, just so he can revisit it in his mind: this time he scores and gets the feeling of scoring. Every cell in his body at the moment is thinking about it negatively.
But go on holiday first, Buyako, try and switch off and don’t think about it.
Difficult to regain control once Italy scored
Some people believe that it was too negative against Italy and people are very naive. Every game is different: if we’d have gone 1-0 down do you think we’d have played like that? No way. We’d have been the team peppering the goal, they would have dropped deep and tried to hit us on the break. The mistake we made in the game was that we were too deep and Sterling needed to be allowed to get forward. We were just far too deep.
Even when we did win the ball Maguire had to kick it out because there was no one up front. Chiellini and Bonucci are aging players and all the space is in behind them. It’s not about planning how we’ll play in the World Cup – every game is different. Gareth has got it right all the way through with his shape of the team. But there’s always a patter and a rhythm to the game and that’s where we lost out.
Once it went 1-1, we didn’t regain charge of the game and they were on top, had lots of touches of the ball and felt like they were in sync.
We needed to target their Achilles heel: their lack of pace. We had to put a pace man up against them and turn them. In a foot race they would never have caught Rashford or Sterling. It’s a simple little thing but sometimes it just needs that clarity, and that’s what we’ve got to learn.
Under Gareth we’ve come fourth in a World Cup, we’ve come third in the Nations League and now second in the Euros. So anyone that’s saying he’s not the right man for the job, there’s the counter argument.
If that was a horse, you’d think in his next runout he’s due to win. It’s not that easy obviously but there are a lot of positives. This group of players will only get better and in 18 months they’ll be stronger for it.
Yes, they might come up against Brazil or Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup and lose. There’s a lot of work to do – our record doesn’t mean we’ll walk it. When we’ve come up against strong teams we’ve struggled. We lost to Belgium twice and this time around we’ve lost to Italy. But we’re making strides and getting better and better and better.
We’ll be fresh and ready for the World Cup
There’s loads of positives to take going into the tournament in Qatar. There are also some negatives that we need to iron out. The best thing is that this England team will have loads of players in the Champions League, getting more experience under their belt. None of those players are going to retire. Italy’s two centre-backs might hang on for the World Cup, but if it was another year after that they would have probably retired.
We’re going to gain that experience and we’ve got so much talent there.
It was very unfortunate that Foden wasn’t available, he got a knock at the wrong time in his life. I think he would have made a difference coming on.
Next year’s World Cup will come earlier in the season and we won’t have played a long, hard winter. Our league is harder than any league in the world, and normally we have two or three weeks before the tournament and the manager doesn’t have any time with the players. Playing in November or December, they’re going to be as fresh as they’ve ever been.
We’ll genuinely go into that tournament as one of five or six teams that are favourites. The only shame is that we won’t get a better moment than this. We won’t get a better moment in Qatar. We only played one game away, we played at Wembley which is a home venue for us, we had a good passage through and played a good Italy side, but one we could have easily beaten if we’d have turned it on and performed well.
We had a good Euros, not a brilliant Euros, and I don’t think there was one team or player that was outstanding. If the likes of Pogba and De Bruyne had got to the final they might have stood out but they got knocked out early. We had players there who were looking good, Sterling was one.
It was a strange tournament, a good positive tournament, but no outstanding individuals. Chiellini and Bonucci were probably the best for their age.
Gareth needs a holiday before deciding his long-term future
There’s talk that the FA are looking to give Gareth a contract extension. It’s a very individual decision. He’s building for the Qatar World Cup. I was on a committee around 15 years ago and Greg Dyke said we were planning to win the World Cup in Qatar, and he could be right. We’re building something and we were within touching distance of the Euros.
There’s room to be optimistic with this group of players and the manager. I don’t see Southgate signing a contract if he personally wants to go back into club football. If he wanted to stay on I’d be behind that as well. We all know in football it changes quickly, so there’s a multitude of reasons why he might sign or might not sign it. It’ll be down to his personal reasons.
There’s a deflated feeling around after the game. It was dreadful and I know what Gareth’s gone through. To get knocked out on penalties in the final, when you’re that close, it’s an incredible deflation.
He needs a holiday, like the lads do. It’s a part of the preparation for the World Cup now, that’s how they’ve got to look at it. The players will go back to their clubs and forget about it. But Gareth’s got to plan for the future, but mentally turn off and come back for the qualifiers.
It starts when those players took those runners-up medals off their neck. It wasn’t disrespectful – it was a little sign that subconsciously they’re saying ‘second isn’t good enough‘. That was the start of the preparation for the World Cup.