Arsenal and England star Saka has the heart of a lion
- Credit: PA
In the lead up to the European Championships, it was unclear whether Bukayo Saka would make the 26-man England squad.
Seven games later, he was chosen to take the crucial fifth penalty in the final to keep his team in the tournament.
Saka went on to miss, as Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho did before him, and England lost the final of the Euros 3-2 on penalties after a tense 1-1 game in 120 minutes.
The 19-year-old began the tournament on the bench and then out of the squad before starting England’s final group stage game against Czech Republic where he claimed UEFA Star of the Match.
From that game on, Saka became an integral part of the England team, making three starts and a substitute appearance in the final, including assisting for England’s equaliser against Denmark in the semi-final.
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Saka did not fear the big moments this tournament and showed courage beyond his years, highlighted by the fact he stepped up to take a crucial penalty.
However, it was curious for Saka, who has never taken a penalty for Arsenal, to even be in that situation.
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England manager Gareth Southgate took full responsibility for Saka, Rashford and Sancho’s misses, saying: “It is down to me. I decided on the penalty-takers based on what they have done in training.
“Nobody is on their own. We have won together as a team and it is on all of us together to not be able to win this game. In terms of penalties, it is my call and it totally rests on me.”
The saddest part of this game was the racial abuse directed towards Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho after the penalty shootout.
No player, no human deserves the abuse these three received, especially under the circumstances.
Southgate’s England is a team that has stood in the face of racism, an England team that has helped to feed and educate the nation’s children, an England team who donates to the NHS, an England team that has brought together so many in our nation, an England team we should all be proud of.