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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Southgate says Euros final racism adds ‘layer of difficulty’ to shootout plans | England

Gareth Southgate says the racial abuse suffered by Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final adds “another layer of difficulty” to preparations for shootouts at major tournaments.

All three players were subjected to racial slurs after Italy’s win at Wembley and Southgate admitted that it may create an unwelcome hurdle in planning for this winter’s World Cup. It was put to the England manager that the fear of being abused may run through players’ minds before taking spot-kicks and he said it was a potential scenario he would take seriously, even though he does not intend it to impact on his selection of takers.

“I have to say it never crossed my mind before,” he said. “It will [now]. We’ve got 55 years of talking about penalties and everything else. So now we’ve got another layer that’s going to make it extremely difficult for us to win anything.

“We went through a process of preparing for penalties. We’ve definitely reviewed that. Some of the boys have taken more with their clubs. Bukayo has taken a couple for his club, which were massively important moments that epitomised what he’s about. But indirectly we have created another layer of difficulty in overcoming a penalty shootout. I have got to take all these things into consideration and it is incredibly complex.”

Southgate explained that he had asked himself, “Have I created this situation here for the boys?” when reflecting on the defeat to Italy the following day, but concluded that the risk of negative ramifications came second to his faith that they would not miss.

“It wouldn’t be right to not pick the players you think are best to take them because of what the possible consequences of them missing would be,” he said. “I’ve got to pick them on the belief they are going to score.”

Gareth Southgate hugs Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy.
Gareth Southgate hugs Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

When Southgate missed a decisive penalty against Germany at Euro 96 he was criticised for his technique but not, as in the case of his players, his skin colour. “We know that’s ludicrous,” he said. “We know that’s outrageous to even think about. I’m balancing whether the question is about the racism itself, which is abhorrent and unacceptable, and what you’re identifying, that there’s another layer of complexity in making that decision.”

Saka could feature when England face Germany on Tuesday night in their first visit to Munich since the 5-1 win in 2001. The Nations League tie marks a test of their credentials against a credible competitor for honours and there is an appetite to bounce back from Saturday’s flat defeat in Hungary. Southgate would rather be arriving off a winning streak but believes the setback may have a positive effect.

“This is the sort of scenario we could find ourselves in, where there is more pressure and the need to go and perform against the big team in the second game [at the World Cup],” he said. “How are we going to react to that, how are we going to be as a group over the next 10 days? I think it’s good for our staff and our players to go through that.

“It’s not what we would have chosen because we would not choose to lose the game. But we’ve had so long since we experienced a defeat that a little jolt ….”

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Southgate spoke of fostering the kind of mentality that, after the thrashing by England 21 years ago, brought Germany a World Cup final place within 12 months. He can welcome back Raheem Sterling and Marc Guéhi to his squad at the Allianz Arena, but Fikayo Tomori will not be risked and James Justin misses out after picking up an injury on his debut in Budapest.

England now know Wales will be their third opponents in Group B on 29 November and Southgate expects a high-octane British derby. “We know there are plenty of teams we could have played in that playoff draw that don’t like us particularly,” he said. “So that certainly adds to the way the opposition approach the game.”

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