England players left surprised by Southgate’s choices for penalty shoot-out

England players were surprised when Bukayo Saka was chosen as one of the five penalty takers.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has been taking regular penalty practice in training in case of a shoot-out so England would be ready.

Arsenal teenager Saka, 19, has endured mixed results in the past week or so but still bravely volunteered to take a spot kick in the Euros final against Italy.

Southgate revealed that he then chose the five takers and clearly decided to use Saka ahead of more experienced players, including Jack Grealish who insisted on social media that he had volunteered.

Gareth Southgate’s choices surprised the squad

Saka was left devastated when he missed England’s fifth and final penalty while Marcus Rashford hit the post and Jadon Sancho also saw his effort saved.

Southgate, who famously missed as a player in the Euro 96 shoot-out, has even taken a league table on penalty takers and kept track of their success in the sessions.

That is why several players thought Saka was a surprise choice ahead of more experienced and more regular takers.

Grealish defended himself on social media after TV pundit Roy Keane accused the Aston Villa captain of bottling out of taking one.

Bukayo Saka missed the crucial penalty
Bukayo Saka missed the crucial penalty

Grealish wrote: “I said I wanted to take one! The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament. But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”

Southgate has also spoken out against the racist abuse inflicted on the three players after they missed in the shoot-out while also insisting the blame should be at his door.

Southgate added: “They should be – and I think they are – incredibly proud of what they’ve done. For some of them to be abused is unforgivable really. I know a lot has come from abroad. People who track those things have been able to explain that. But not all of it.

“And it’s just not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together and people being able to relate to the national team and the national team stands for everybody. So, that togetherness has to continue.

“It’s my decision who takes penalties. It’s not a case of players not volunteering or more experienced players backing out. They didn’t have a chance. It was my decision to give the penalties to the guys that took them. (I’ve) still got huge belief in them.

“Bukayo has been an absolute star in this tournament. Incredible maturity the way he has played. He’s brought smiles to people’s faces and is such a popular member of the group. I know he has everyone’s support.”

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