Roy Hodgson conceded last night that in comparison to Italy’s cool midfield general Andrea Pirlo his England players simply lacked the nerve in the high-pressure tournament penalty shoot-outs, as they were eliminated from Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals last night.
It was a familiar course of events for the England supporters in Kiev last night who witnessed yet another capitulation from the penalty spot after their team had first gained the upper hand with Riccardo Montolivo’s miss with Italy’s second spot-kick. After Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney scored, Ashley Young hit the bar and Ashley Cole had his effort saved.
It was England’s fifth straight defeat in a penalty shoot-out, their sixth out of seven in the national team’s history, and it was distinguished by Pirlo’s immaculately chipped penalty for Italy, with his team trailing 2-1. “This sort of cool, calculated way that Pirlo had the confidence to chip the goalkeeper,” Hodgson said, “you either have that as a player or you don't, and no amount of coaching or training will help reproduce that.”
With Italy dominating much of the game from the mid-point in the first half – they completed 815 passes to England’s 320 and had 64 per cent of the possession – Hodgson said that he would not “begrudge” the Italians their victory.
“For long periods it was an even game and interesting tactical battle,” Hodgson said. “They didn't get behind us on too many occasions. We didn't do as well with the ball as we should have done. Which team deserved to win it, that's a matter for debate but, talking for my own team, we put up a very good effort. Had we won it, we wouldn't have been apologising for the victory.”
Joe Hart, who failed to save a penalty, said that he blamed himself for not doing better: “ "I thought it was going to be our night because of the side we had, the heart we had, the quality we had, but unfortunately it wasn't to be, we didn't do well in the shoot-out, myself included.
"I'd like to be optimistic now but that's not the feeling in my heart at the moment. I'm an emotional guy and I put everything I had into these past couple of weeks.
Theo Walcott said that Young and Cole could come back stronger from their penalty misses against Italy that meant England were eliminated from Euro 2012 in a penalty shoot-out for the fifth time in succession. Walcott said: “The two Ashleys are strong enough lads to come back from this and the lads will be with them. They are two of the most experienced players in that dressing room and they will bounce back from this even better players. I do not worry about that at all.”
“I don’t know how to answer why we cannot win penalties shoot-outs. It can go either way. It is a difficult one. Anyone can win.
“I think penalties is always down to luck. It is a lottery. It is just the way it goes in football. You can practice and practice as much as you want but when it comes to the occasion, the biog stage, it is always difficult. I hate watching it when I am back at home. I feel for every single player. It is not one of those scenarios you want to be involved in when you are on a losing side. I feel it as I am on the losing side. It is a sad way.”
Wayne Rooney said it was “a horrible way to go out”. He said: “We are all gutted. It was a tough game we all worked hard. To lose on pens is a horrible feeling for everyone. We can hold our heads up high, a lot of young players in squad and that will help them in next tournament.”