Jack Grealish claims he wanted to take a penalty for England against Italy on Sunday, but it was Gareth Southgate’s decision.
When England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy went to penalties on Sunday, a few of the youngest members of the team stepped up to take the first five, including Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.
Sadly, all three of them either missed or saw their efforts saved, crowning Italy champions. This led to some backlash in the media, with pundits asking why the likes of Jack Grealish were letting Saka step up to take one ahead of them.
Defending himself against that criticism, Grealish pointed out on Twitter that he wanted to take one, it just wasn’t his call.
“I said I wanted to take one,” Grealish wrote. “The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will.”
That’s something Gareth Southgate also confirmed, speaking after the game.
“We win and lose together. Nobody is left out on their own and the calls for the penalties were mine,” Southgate said. “My decision. My decision to ask the players to take the penalties that they did.”
A clip doing the rounds on social media shows Southgate assigning the penalty takers ahead of the shootout, so that seems fairly conclusive.
Given all of that, I have to say it’s bizarre for Southgate to select Saka as the fifth taker when he’d never taken a senior penalty. He’d never had to deal with that kind of pressure before, and we’re giving him the pivotal penalty in the final shootout?
Arsenal and the Arsenal fans will lift Saka up, and he’s the type of character you know will bounce back to bigger and better things. It’s just a shame he was put in a position where he has to.