MARTIN SAMUEL: No manager has EVER chosen a penalty-taker he did not think would score. If Gareth Southgate made an error, nobody will feel it more acutely than he does. But hindsight’s a wonderful tactician… and it’s not lost a shootout yet
- History is written by the winners and those with the luxury of hindsight
- Gareth Southgate would’ve been a genius if Rashford and Sancho scored
- People asked why didn’t Sterling take one? He’s missed three of his five pens
- Same process that picked Dier to win it against Colombia no doubt selected Saka
- Southgate will know if he made an error but hindsight is a wonderful thing
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
There were 125 minutes gone when Anderson stepped on to the pitch at the 2008 Champions League final. The fifth minute of injury time, in extra time. He didn’t get a chance to touch the ball before referee Lubos Michel blew the final whistle.
So when the Brazilian took Manchester United’s sixth penalty in the shootout against Chelsea, it was his first contribution to the game. He scored, so Sir Alex Ferguson is a genius.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho did not, so Gareth Southgate got it wrong. History is written by the winners. And by those with the luxury of hindsight and a social media account.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho both missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final shootout
Southgate was asked repeatedly what he would have done differently in Monday’s post-mortem and the truth, given what he knows now, is probably a hundred tiny things that seem irrelevant to us. Every losing coach feels the same. Yet no manager has ever chosen a penalty-taker he did not think would score.
The same process that sent Eric Dier out in the anchor role against Colombia in 2018 no doubt selected Bukayo Saka against Italy. Not just training ground performance but psychological assessment and profile.
And we can mock and argue that modern coaches overthink the subject, and common sense says that a 19-year-old shouldn’t have a European Championship final on his shoulders.
Yet when we saw Dier walking up in Moscow, most of us thought the management had lost their minds that night, too. And then when he scored and later the selection method was revealed, it was declared a moment of brilliance and insight. So we can’t have it all ways.
Gareth Southgate picked those players to take penalties because he believed they would score
Jose Mourinho was among those questioning the resolve of England’s senior players on Monday, while shining further light on his own unique man-management skills.
‘In this situation, where was Raheem Sterling? Where was John Stones? Where was Luke Shaw? Why didn’t Jordan Henderson or Kyle Walker stay on the pitch?’ said Mourinho. ‘I think it’s too much for a kid in this moment, but many times what happens is that players who should be there are not there. They run away from the responsibility.
‘Don’t ask me who, because I will not say, but I was told 100 per cent of one player that could be in this team and was not in this team. One of the reasons was in the World Cup semi-final he should have taken a penalty and he refused.’
One problem with that. England didn’t lose on penalties in the World Cup semi-final. Croatia won in extra time. And, even if Mourinho means the round-of-16 game versus Colombia, he’s probably given up the name already.
No one fancied Eric Dier but it was seen as a moment of brilliance from Gareth when he scored
It can only be Jesse Lingard. Jamie Vardy retired after the World Cup, Danny Rose played his last England game in October 2019, Dele Alli even earlier and Dier took a penalty. That leaves Lingard; the one player who could have been in this squad, wasn’t in this squad and didn’t take a penalty in 2018.
Yet even if Mourinho is correct, so what? It’s not for everybody. Southgate took his penalty in 1996 out of a misplaced sense of duty rather than any great confidence. Maybe, and again with hindsight, he might have been better taking a step back.
When Southgate recalled the event in his autobiography, not one sentence conveyed certainty. It was a mistake on his part. Noble and well-intended, but wrong.
Why wasn’t Henderson kept on? Well, his was England’s only miss against Colombia. Sterling? He has taken five penalties in his career and missed three. Walker, Stones and Shaw? Never taken a penalty. If Southgate made an error, nobody will feel it more acutely than he does. But hindsight’s a wonderful tactician and it’s never lost a shootout yet.
McEnroe was RIGHT about Raducanu
Now the dust has settled on Wimbledon, a few thoughts on the exit of Emma Raducanu and the reaction to it.
Mainly that there is absolutely no point in employing a former elite player and broadcaster as gifted as John McEnroe unless his views are given credence above the shrill screams of the mob. Nothing McEnroe said about Raducanu’s exit was in any way offensive. There was no pile-on.
There is a huge difference between the usual suspects who wish to insert their views into any public talking point, and the opinions of a qualified expert. McEnroe’s assessment that it got a ‘little bit too much’ for an 18-year-old playing beyond the qualifiers in her first Grand Slam tournament was proved correct and confirmed, first by Raducanu’s father, then by the athlete.
Emma Raducanu’s fairytale run at Wimbledon came to an end after she retired in the last-16
‘I think it’s the level,’ Ian Raducanu offered by way of explanation on the night. The following day, Raducanu posted: ‘I think the whole experience caught up with me. I think it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes.’
In other words, McEnroe was right. There was no physical injury and it wasn’t a choke. It was what happens, sometimes, when an inexperienced athlete is embroiled in a momentous event.
In the 1978 FA Cup final, when Roger Osborne scored what proved to be the winning goal for Ipswich against Arsenal with 13 minutes to go, the scale of his achievement overwhelmed him, and he had to be substituted on the verge of fainting. Osborne was not one of Ipswich’s stars.
He only scored 10 goals in his career there and within three years had been sold to Colchester United. Paul Mariner would not have reacted that way because he was England’s striker. So McEnroe distinguished between Raducanu and her more experienced rivals, the way we would between Osborne and Mariner.
Nothing US tennis legend John McEnroe said about Raducanu’s exit was in any way offensive
The most laughable argument is that as a ‘middle-aged man’ he shouldn’t comment on the wellbeing of teenage girls. How about as a middle-aged man who has stood exactly where Raducanu was on Monday night? How about as a middle-aged man who has forgotten more about tennis and the pressures of elite sport than his detractors will ever know?
How about as a middle-aged man who is employed by the BBC, at considerable expense, to give his insight? What was he supposed to say? ‘I have no clue why she appears to be hyperventilating. Is there a teenage girl in the room who could explain this to me?’
As Raducanu confirmed, McEnroe’s appraisal of her crisis was accurate and born of experience. He was right. His critics wrong. Unchallenged, they will kill not just free speech, but valued insight and expertise.
Why all-for-one won’t work
The debate around football’s future continues. A group of 10 clubs calling for reform have made their case to MPs. The demand is for salary caps, the abolition of parachute payments and financial transparency. Some of the proposals make sense.
Unfortunately, what is good for Luton, Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Lincoln, Bristol Rovers, Carlisle, Leyton Orient, Newport and Tranmere does not work for Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, or West Ham, Derby County, Norwich and Everton.
It is important football’s future looks after the smaller clubs; it is madness to allow them to dictate the structure of the game.
Don’t peddle nonsense in the name of Cav
This letter appeared in The Sunday Times, on the morning of the Euro 2020 final.
‘England might well be in their first football final for 55 years but may I remind readers that not one of the current squad could do what Mark Cavendish achieved on July 11 — ride for 200km plus in temperatures of 28°C, and win a sprint at the end to equal the stage-wins record in the Tour de France set by Eddy Merckx. It’s called perspective.’
Actually, it’s called cobblers. For a start, the writer does not know what any of the current England squad might have achieved had they taken up cycling from an early age. They are all incredible athletes. Kalvin Phillips ran 15km during the semi-final win over Denmark. An endurance distance, conducted at a sprint-start pace. Equally, competitive cycling remains a niche sport, while every boy in Britain and beyond plays football.
The letter claiming no England player could achieve what Mark Cavendish has in cycling was complete nonsense
To become one of the 26 best at it in the country, therefore, is a supreme sporting achievement. Andy Murray readily admits that he chose tennis over football — he was very good at both — because he thought the participation numbers would make it easier to get to the top. And Murray has had to work as hard for his success as any athlete in history, given the nature of his opposition.
He never, however, belittled the talent, standards or commitment of the best professional footballers.
One imagines an exceptional, brilliant competitor such as Cavendish wouldn’t either. And if he did, he would be as big a fool as the person who sent that letter.
Lions tour is madness
As the British and Irish Lions tour staggers on, its madness seems increasingly apparent. There are now 26 positive Covid cases in the South African camp, including 14 players. Having won their first Test to be played in 600 days against Georgia on July 2, it is increasingly unlikely the world champions will be in action again before the Lions Test in Cape Town on July 24.
The tourists may be similarly undercooked having played two warm-up games against the inferior Sharks, because the Bulls were laid low by Covid. The worth of a trip undertaken solely for financial reasons is very much in doubt.
Euro 2020 showed what UEFA truly value
With Euro 2020 over, Aleksander Ceferin – president of UEFA – has given his considered verdict on holding a tournament across a continent in a pandemic. He wouldn’t do it again.
‘It is not fair to fans,’ he said. ‘I would not support it. Too challenging. It’s not correct that some teams have to travel more than 10,000 kilometres and the others 1,000.’
In other words, everything you have been reading in this column since the decision was made and the format announced in 2012. That’s nine years for UEFA to correct their mistake. And they didn’t bother.
UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin said he wouldn’t hold a tournament across a continent again
Ceferin hasn’t suddenly realised it’s hard and expensive for a supporter of Switzerland to fly to Baku, Rome, Baku again, Bucharest and St Petersburg following the team; he’s not so stupid it has only just occurred to him that his schedule put individual countries at a significant disadvantage. He has known this all along, but did nothing about it.
So let’s not pretend he is on the side of fans and players now. This is UEFA’s decision, just as it was to allow people to criss-cross Europe without obeying local quarantine rules, in the name of football.
This was a fine competition for England and will be remembered with fondness, but do not let it obscure what UEFA did and what they truly value.
If Bale’s serious about his World Cup bid, he’ll have to give up some of his wages
Gareth Bale’s big career reveal turned out much as expected. One more year picking up a salary at Real Madrid — which no one can match — and then life on the golf course. He still harbours hope, however, that even retired from club football he might play for Wales at the 2022 World Cup.
How? A clue Belgium were flawed at Euro 2020 was that one of their defenders, Thomas Vermaelen, had been playing in the J-League with Vissel Kobe since 2019. How would Bale propose to keep fit from the end of next season to November 2022 when the World Cup starts? International football cannot be taken lightly. If Bale is serious about playing for Wales next year — and qualification is far from guaranteed — he gets a club, enters a proper fitness regime and plays matches.
Yet after Tottenham’s experience this season, who would cover that contract? Something has to give — Bale’s salary or his international ambitions. Unless he has the appetite to win back his place at Real Madrid.
If Gareth Bale is serious about playing at the World Cup, he’ll need to get a club and play games
Galileo’s death like Maradona being laid to rest by a sprained ankle
Galileo was put to sleep at the weekend, at the age of 23. It’s not old for a horse. And what a horse.
He won the 2001 Derby, but it was as a sire that Galileo proved the greatest champion. To date, five of his sons have also won the Derby and this year’s winner, Adayar, was in human terms a grandson, sired by the mighty Frankel. In all, Galileo sired 91 Group One winners, with 20 of his sons also producing winners at racing’s highest level.
He was Europe’s champion sire 11 straight seasons from 2010 to 2020 and his annual stud fees were worth anything from £40million to £100m. Galileo died as the humane response to a ‘chronic, non-responsive, debilitating injury to the left forefoot’. Untreatable for equine athletes, but to human ears, like hearing Diego Maradona was laid to rest by a sprained ankle.
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