Written by Keir Barradell
At its peak, last night, 31 million Brits tuned in to watch a historic moment in England’s sporting history. Waking up on the 11th July 2021, there was a shared sense of pride and anticipation, as the country waited with bated breath to see if England could lift their first major trophy since 1966. Whether you were nursing your pint at the local pub, or hiding behind your sofa, all eyes were on Gareth Southgate’s men.
It didn’t take long before Luke Shaw poked England in front; it only took three minutes for Shaw to meet a floating ball from Kieran Trippier and take the lead. England continued to build from there, looking stronger and better in every department over their Italian counterparts. You can guarantee come half time, there was a sneaking suspicion in many minds that it may actually, just, be coming home.
However, despite starting the second half well, the Italians began to show their class. Following some cunning tactical switches from Roberto Mancini, Italy capitalised on their pressure through a scrappy finish from Leonardo Bonnuci. The deadlock could not be broken from there, and extra time seemed an inevitability.
In what continued to be a dogged battle, extra time rolled on without many chances for either team. Despite pressure from the Italians through Federico Chiesa, and the occasional set-play from England, the final whistle was blown and the dreaded penalty shootout became reality. If this is too raw, feel free to stop reading now…
Penalties were scored and penalties were missed on both sides; advantage went the way of the Italians, who would have won all but for a vital stop from Jordan Pickford. Unfortunately, England failed to capitalise on this, as the courageous Bukayo Saka’s penalty was saved by the imperious Gianluigi Donnarumma.
However, despite the immense achievement of the team to reach the final, the aftermath of the result brings forward issues that supersede football. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka were all subject to abhorrent racial abuse on social media after the game. Furthermore, in Manchester, a mural honouring Rashford’s achievements was vandalised and has been investigated by the Greater Manchester Police.
These hateful acts show how much work there is still to be done in the fight against racism. It is becoming commonplace that players receive abuse in this manner, and far too little is being done to stop it. We send all our support to our players and must continue to fight those who seek to divide us. The England team has brought together our nation after a very difficult time in our history; so now must be the time to support and be proud of their immense achievements.