And yet another European championship escaped English footballers courtesy of a penalty shoot out. The team started strong against its Italian opponents, but it was the blues who dominated the game.
One hundred and twenty minutes of football left both sides goalless and left the fate of the game to penalties. The result was what the English dreaded beforehand; spot-kick drama that sent England packing.
Roy Hodgson, England’s famously polite manager, showed a news conference on Monday a piece of his mind:
“I think I made my views on penalty taking very clear. It’s like having a virtual reality hole for the Open Championship. What can possibly prepare you for the real thing? We did everything to prepare, but it doesn’t change the fact that Pirlo did that remarkable Panenka chip whereas our players tried the penalties as they practised. If we can’t beat teams in 90 minutes, we have to get better at penalty shoot-outs.”
The view from the British press is that the team has performed well with two wins and a draw in the tournament.
“Performance wise, I’m happy but it doesn’t cover up the pain,” said England captain Steven Gerrard. “I’m in a zone of frustration and disappointment because we came so close to ending that quarter-final hoodoo.”
“At times we haven’t been fantastic. As a nation, we do need to try to improve with the ball. But everyone’s given everything they’ve got and that’s all you can ask for.”
After the game on Sunday night heaps of disappointed fans left bars and pubs deflated.
On the London Underground this morning you could see shaking heads over newspaper headlines of the defeat.
Olly, a 28-year-old Arsenal fan who works at the M&M store said he will now support Germany because his team has just signed a German striker. He was happy until the penalties and during most of the championship, but then everything changed.
Hamish, a 31-year-old who works in sports, showed his anger with indifference. “I don’t mind now. Spain or Germany deserve to win because they are the best,” he said.
Paul Burgess, 50, a professor of neuroscience, blamed the defeat on the mentality of the players, claiming “they expect to lose”.
“We haven’t got a sport mentality in this culture, it’s not like Australia where sport runs through every aspect of the culture. Any kind of physical activity is seen as a valuable thing to do, where it’s important to develop your mind and to develop your body. In our country we don’t see that, we have obesity problem, we have too much drinking, we have no playing fields in schools for children.”
Roy Hodgson confessed to his disappointment, which was already evident in his expression. But he tried to play the advocate of hope, although not too convincingly:
“We have to be optimistic, we have to believe, see the positive and ignore the fact that we have not gone further than the quarter finals but take a small degree of satisfaction that we gave it our best shot.”