English midfielder Jack Grealish has defended himself after insinuations surfaced that he chose not to take a penalty in the dramatic shootout loss to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday.
Pundit Roy Keane had said he was unhappy that Grealish and Raheem Sterling had chosen not to take the fifth decisive penalty, instead of 19-year-old Bukayo Saka.
Saka’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma as England suffered heartbreak at Wembley.
“If you’re (Raheem) Sterling or (Jack) 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 star 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.”
But, responding via Twitter, Grealish said the decision was not his.
He said: “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…”
‘I chose the takers’
Meanwhile, England manager Gareth Southgate has taken responsibility for the penalty decisions.
England, playing in their first major final since 1966, lost 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.
Southgate also brought on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford deep into extra time specifically to take spot-kicks, and they also both missed as England blew an early advantage in the shoot-out.
“I chose the takers,” Southgate told ITV. “I’m unbelievably disappointed not to go one step further.
“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”
Arsenal winger Saka, who had only made five international appearances before the tournament, saw England’s final penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, after Jorginho had wasted the chance to secure the title for Italy when his effort was kept out by Jordan Pickford.
“That was my decision to give him (Saka) that penalty,” said Southgate, who missed the crucial penalty when England lost in the Euro 96 semi-finals to Germany on home soil.
“We worked with them in training. It was a gamble.”