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9:02am on Monday, 12th July, 2021:
The way fate works, the moment England brought on two specialist penalty-takers, it was certain that neither would score.
Seasoned penalty-takers insist that the best way to take a penalty is to decide where to hit it in advance, then hit it there. Rashford didn't and hit the post. Sancho and Saka did and the Italian goalkeeper saved their shots. They both hit them shots low and to the goalkeeper's left, which is exactly where he saved a shot in the shout-out against Spain.
I was thinking before that match that in a Hollywood script, it would go to penalties and we'd win. Then I remembered how The Cincinnati Kid ended.
Southgate is at times too cautious, particularly with substitutions. Grealish should have been on mid-way through the second half and Sancho is a better player than Saka against this level of opponent. Why Henderson was brought on for Rice is a mystery.
England's forward three hardly ever pressed in the second half, meaning that Italy were able to build their attacks from the back; Italy's forwards did press, which inevitably ended with the ball at Pickford's feet and his having to hoof it upfield back to the Italians.
Still, it's a young squad that might be around for another few years, so we could see ourselves in the quarter-finals of the World Cup at least.
If we'd won, Southgate would have had redemption for having his penalty saved in 1996. Perhaps if it works the same way for them, Rashford, Sancho and Saka are future England managers.
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