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carra view I didn’t feel guilty after my miss – and neither should Saka, Rashford and Sancho

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England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho. Photo by Getty Images

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho. Photo by Getty Images

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho. Photo by Getty Images

Seconds remained of extra-time in the World Cup quarter-final, penalties beckoned, and the manager was looking for the most confident players on the substitutes’ bench.

Sven-Goran Eriksson summoned me and gave me one job: to dispatch a spot-kick as convincingly as I had in every practice session. I had not missed a penalty in six weeks.

“You’ll take the fourth,” Eriksson told me.

Not a problem.

England were 2-1 down by the time I made that 40-yard walk, but I was feeling confident staring at Portugal’s No 1, Ricardo.

Knowing precisely where to place the ball, I struck it sweetly to the right, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way – my first touch of the game.

There was a momentary sense of relief.

Then the referee blew his whistle.

The Argentinian official, Horacio Marcelo Elizondo, said I had taken it too soon.

Take two.

Now I was engaged in a game of bluff with Ricardo, wrongly presuming he would think I would try to score in exactly the same way.

I changed my mind and went left. So did he, pushing away my attempt.

Then Cristiano Ronaldo beat Paul Robinson with Portugal’s fifth penalty and 2006 joined Italia ’90, Euro ’96 and Euro 2004 in the catalogue of familiar failure.

Naturally, I can relate to how Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka feel.

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The days of a manager going onto the pitch after 120 minutes, looking into the faces of his players and saying, ‘right lads, who fancies one?’ are over.

Gareth Southgate had good reason for sending on Rashford and Sancho in the 119th minute against Italy. Rashford is generally a brilliant penalty taker. He has a great record. The timing was also brave as England were defending a corner when Southgate brought them on.

The trio may not be consoled by my experience, but at no stage did I ever worry that I had let anyone down by missing, or that I had to apologise for it.

None of my team-mates looked at me and held me responsible. Every player and sensible football fan understands penalties can go either way.

Nor did I consider myself brave taking a penalty.

In Germany, I was sent on in the 119th minute with a job to do, tried my best to do it, and it didn’t work out.

I never felt scapegoated. I would not have allowed myself to be.

The difference for the players who missed their penalties 15 years ago is there was no social media and no vile abuse to remind me of the miss.

The England players should not look at it, and the rest of us should stop engaging with morons, believing every contemptible tweet needs a comeback.

We have tried boycotting the social media companies. A swifter reaction is to censor the idiots who treat every notification like a badge of honour. Many of them should be dealt with by the law, and ignored by the rest of us beyond privately alerting appropriate legal authorities.

Southgate and his squad have done plenty to disassociate themselves from the most unsavoury elements of England’s support who have unfortunately hijacked the image of what it means to follow the national team.

The scenes of lawlessness at Wembley and the online responses demonstrate there is still a long way to go.

Ultimately, there are some burdens of the nation’s international history which the new generation have not yet shaken off.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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