England’s 55-year wait for a major tournament win goes on after Sunday’s cruel Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy.
But on and off the pitch they have inspired the nation, going closer than any other Three Lions side since Sir Alf Ramsay’s heroes lifted the World Cup in 1966.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five of Gareth Southgate’s players who have emerged from the tournament with their reputation enhanced.
Sterling has emphatically silenced his critics. He carried the fight for England during a slow start in the group stages with winners against Croatia and the Czech Republic and opened the scoring in the round of 16 against Germany. Sterling also provided a brilliant assist for Harry Kane’s opener against Ukraine and won the decisive penalty in the semi-final against Denmark. A constant menace with the ball at his feet in every match, he was a contender for player of the tournament.
Maguire went into the tournament with an ankle injury and finished it by cementing his status as one of the world’s best central defenders. The Manchester United captain’s rock-solid partnership alongside the impressive John Stones was key to England’s five clean sheets. Faultless in his defensive duties, Maguire grew in stature as a ball carrier and distributer and was a major aerial threat at set pieces. He led by example all the way to his final kick – a nerveless rocket of a penalty in the heart-breaking shootout against Italy.
Saka emerged as one of the tournament’s surprise packages. Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho were all expected to be ahead of him, but the Arsenal teenager proved a dynamic talent after turning in a man-of-the-match display against the Czech Republic. The 19-year-old forward played with freedom; intent on attacking opposition defenders. His brilliant delivery in the semi-final against Denmark was bundled home for the equaliser and displayed true courage despite his penalty shoot-out miss in the final.
Shaw started every game bar the opener against Croatia and more than justified his place in Southgate’s side. The 26-year-old was near-perfect in his one-on-one defending but set himself apart with his marauding forays down the left. He consistently gave England’s attack a different dimension, demonstrated by his three assists and his superbly-taken opening goal against Italy – the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final. The Manchester United defender had the last laugh on his biggest critic, Jose Mourinho.
We gave it our all. In the end it wasn’t meant to be but I’m incredibly proud of this team. Thank you to all the staff, my teammates and, most importantly, our fans, for their amazing support. It was an honour to have played for you over the past few weeks. We’ll be back ❤️🏴 pic.twitter.com/ATK4Ft9AKA— Kalvin Phillips (@Kalvinphillips) July 12, 2021
Phillips’ partnership with Declan Rice in front of England’s back line was a major factor in their run to the final. The 25-year-old midfielder started all seven matches and could be a fixture in Southgate’s side for years to come. He might not always catch the eye – Leeds fans will tell you his influence is best noticed when he is not in the side – but his physicality and supreme fitness offer world class protection. Phillips also demonstrated his passing range and his assist for Sterling in the opening group game showed he can be highly effective in attack.
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