Jack Grealish has hit back at criticism following England’s Euro 2020 shoot-out heartache against Italy, insisting he wanted to take a penalty.
Gareth Southgate’s side lost 3-2 on spot kicks following three successive failures from 12 yards by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.
The game had finished 1-1, with the teams unable to be separated in extra time after Leonardo Bonucci’s scrambled effort midway through the second half cancelled out Luke Shaw’s second-minute opener.
Much of the focus was placed on England’s choice of penalty takers afterwards, with Southgate taking full responsibility for selecting who would step forward.
Rashford and Sancho were introduced during the dying minutes, while Arsenal teenager Saka had never taken a penalty in his professional career.
“If you’re [Raheem] Sterling or Grealish, you cannot sit there and have a young kid [Saka] go up for a penalty ahead of you, you can’t,” former Manchester United captain Roy Keane told ITV.
“You cannot let a shy 19-year-old go up in front of you. They have a lot more experience, Sterling has won trophies, they had to get in front of the young kid and stand up.”
Grealish tweeted in response to Keane, saying: “I said I wanted to take one!!!!
“The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight!
“But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a ‘peno’ when I said I will…”
Speaking at his post-match news conference, Southgate insisted Grealish and Sterling – who was one of England’s standout performers with three goals and an assist during the competition – being omitted from the chosen five was based upon preparations on the training ground.
“I chose the penalty takers based on what we’ve done in training and nobody is on their own,” he said.
“We’ve won together as a team and it’s absolutely on all of us in terms of not being able to win the game.”
Grealish made five appearances at Euro 2020, four of which came as a substitute. He provided assists for Sterling’s early winner in the 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic and Harry Kane’s header as England saw off Germany 2-0 in the last 16.
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