What a month of football we all just witnessed! Subsequently teams across Europe captivated their audiences with just about everything this beautiful game has to offer. Resulting in golazos, VAR involvement, referee drama and of course the own goal (or many)! The backdrop for this championship was like no other with the number of host cities, crowd sizes and travel required. Unfortunately, no Reds were able to become breakout stars or take part in any of the victory celebrations on Sunday. Though there were some stand out performances, minutes were hard to come by outside of Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri. In conclusion we finish our series by reviewing the final match and some nuggets regarding our Liverpool lads. Let’s get to it!
Italy 1-1 England (3-2 to Italy on penalties)
Both Italy and England were worthy finalist in this Euro 2020. England had 55 years of misfortunes on their minds, nerves in their hearts and an almost full Wembley Stadium. Which irrupted when Luke Shaw’s second minute strike found the back of the net following a beautiful Kieran Trippier cross. After just two minutes, England was 1-0 in front, and Southgate’s once again looked like a genius. I joked earlier in this series that Southgate was lucky and had a horseshoe hidden somewhere in his suit. Following this start, I would think he had it with him! England was clearly the better team for the first 15-25 minutes before the Italians started to find their way. A 1-0 half-time lead at home in the European Championship, someone pinch the England fans they must be dreaming!
Then the second half came and the previously dreaming English supporters started to realize they were in for a battle. The Italians started to get their midfielders on the ball and opportunities presented themselves. They couldn’t break through until longtime servant Leonardo Bonucci scored following a corner. It was 1-1, Italy was on the front foot, England hadn’t done anything all half and it was time for another change (finally). Southgate brought on Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson in the 74th minute as his second and final regulation sub. I didn’t understand this tactic, he had 5 subs and plenty of fire power on the bench? It was like Southgate was playing for penalties in regular time, really does he hate his own fans? Italy dominated possession but off to extra time the match went.
Extra Time Again…
Italy controlled the play, but the biggest talking point was Southgate’s subs, or lack thereof. Grealish came on in the 99th minute for Mason Mount and that would be the final change Southgate would make until he subbed on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho for Kyle Walker and Hendo. Personally, I would have left Henderson on the pitch and taken off one of the lesser experienced players. England had the advantage 2-1 after Harry Maguire scored from the spot. Rashford and Sancho would miss consecutive chances leaving the match in the hands of Jorginho and his awkward skip, Pickford SAVES! So, what does the genius do? Sends up, Bakayo Saka, a 19-year-old kid who has never attempted a penalty in a professional match, wrong move Gareth. Player of the tournament, Gianluigi Donnuruma saved the tentative shot, and the Italians celebrated another major tournament trophy. What followed was far from joyous.
The Match Fallout…
I wrote above this tournament gave us everything great this beautiful game has to offer. That said the ending and subsequent racist abuse to the English trio who missed was disgusting. This type of hatred has no place in sport or any walk of society. To think the same English fans tried to minimize teams kneeling in protest as a “hollow cause” only to abuse their own is sickening. Why we are here, English FA, shut the f*ck up with the we believe this abuse resonates outside the UK. Really, so it was foreigners who magically defaced the Rashford mural? Was it foreigners who tried to crash Wembley pre-match or left the streets absolutely disgusting outside the stadium (see below)? The FA needs to investigate their fanbase, the ones who booed anthems, shined lasers in opposing players eyes and racially abused their own. I feel for those three young men.
Final Reds Player Reviews:
- Andrew Robertson: Scotland’s qualification was a big accomplishment but unfortunately they were eliminated after the group stages. Robbo was industrious, strong and a great representative of his countrymen and woman. He also will get a couple extra weeks rest, which should make us happy and right back in the EPL worried!
- Neco Williams: Neco had an underwhelming tournament. He was subbed on and made a big mistake that directly led to a goal and had little impact to help his side going forward. His continued role in the Wales setup is only strengthening his desire to leave. I would put it at 50/50 he goes but homegrown numbers could play apart.
- Harry Wilson: If Neco was undewhelming, Wilson’s tournament was well, par for the course. He had a couple moments but then his tournament ended abruptly with a poor red card that will see him suspended for 3 international matches. Wilson’s time is up at Liverpool and I expect him to be sold in the coming weeks.
- Diogo Jota: Jota’s four matches were hit or miss. He started them all and had some great moments and then some woeful misses. Playing with (for) Cristiano just didn’t seem to suit his style. I believe Jota will have a great second season at Liverpool if he can stay fit. He has a huge part to play for club and country for years to come as he enters the prime of his career.
- Xherdan Shaqiri: Shaqiri was Liverpool’s most consistent and successful player. Helping his team to the quarterfinals including a dramatic round of 16 victory against France. Shaq showed his importance to this Swiss side but also showed the traits that have seen him drop down pecking order at LFC. Talk of a transfer is only increasing with clubs like Lazio strongly linked.
- Thiago Alcantara: This one really surprised me, but it shouldn’t. Thiago found himself getting little playing time for Spain during this championship. Some of that has to be down to the magical play of young Barcelona prodigy Pedri. But Thiago wasn’t a Luis Enrique guy before, so why would I think he would be now? With Spain making it to the Semi’s I expect Enrique to stay on, this might be the end of Thiago’s involvement with the national team. Ok by me, one less player to worry about being injured when away.
- Jordan Henderson: No player was affected more by the tournament not being played last year than the Captain. Jordan would have been an automatic starter in every match had he been fully fit last summer. I would have strongly considered starting Jordan in the final and wouldn’t have taken him off regardless of his penalty history. I want a winner who isn’t afraid to lose in a shootout. Jordan is that and we are so lucky to have him!
I will forever remember this tournament for the emotion, drama and support of the Denmark squad. What they went through and how they came together was truly special. The tournament of the own goal, keeper mistakes and penalty shootouts. I will also remember it as the first time I started to contribute for the site. Thank you to all who have read and I hope you enjoyed the series. Liverpool season will be here before you know and we have lots of great preseason content to come. Until then, let’s just all agree the better team won and congratulate Italy. FORZA AZZURRI!