'I feel I've let everyone down'

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Head down, extremely pensive and seemingly on the brink of tears, Gareth Southgate looked like a man bound for the gallows at Wembley last night as he awaited his turn to face the media firing squad.

No one dared point an accusing finger in the direction of the Aston Villa defender for missing England's crucial penalty, but that was of little consolation to him. "Quite honestly, I feel I've let everyone down," Southgate said. "But I've got a job to do and I'll get on with that.

"It's been such a great tournament for the entire country and it's a pity it should come down to my penalty. The game had gone reasonably well for me and when the boss asked me if I was prepared to take a kick I said: 'Sure'. But the lads have been absolutely brilliant about it."

Southgate recalled that once before he had taken a last-minute penalty for Crystal Palace at Ipswich three years ago when he also missed, striking an upright. That proved crucial, too, for had Palace won instead of drawing, they would have escaped relegation from the Premier League.

Sympathy came quickly for the crestfallen defender, for no sooner had he trudged dejectedly off the pitch than he was being consoled by Stuart Pearce. No one knows better than Pearce what it is like to miss a penalty against the Germans, for the Nottingham Forest full-back, along with Chris Waddle, squandered their kicks at the World Cup semi-final in Turin six years ago.

Pearce said: "I've got to know Gareth quite well over the last few weeks and I feel that his personality will help him bounce back from this. It will stick with him for a while, but we're all in this together."

The England coach, Terry Venables, said after his last game in charge of the national team: "We got off to a terrific start. We surprised ourselves, but then we had a tricky 20 minutes when we retreated too far and gave them too much space. We were excellent in the second half and certainly had the chances.

"We've played Spain, Holland and now Germany. We've competed at the highest level and I don't think we've got anything to be downhearted about since we've fallen at the final hurdle.

"As for Gareth Southgate, he's only had a few games for England but he was magnificent. He has nothing to worry about in the future."

Germany's coach, Berti Vogts, congratulated England. "Rarely have I seen such a strong England team," he said. "They were really strong today but it was amazing how well we came back after going 1-0 down."

Vogts refused to criticise the Hungarian referee, Sandor Puhl, although he did comment: "I wouldn't like to say whether the yellow cards were justified, but it will be a shame for us to lose players like Reuter and Moller for the final."

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