Gareth Southgate’s popular England side ended their Euro 2020 journey in heartache after losing the final 3-2 to Italy on penalties at Wembley, with young substitutes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missing the deciding spotkicks.
Jordan Pickford saved from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho but his heroics were not enough to rescue his side from that all-too-familiar sinking feeling.
Britain’s newspapers were largely united in their mood of dismay on Monday morning, the disappointment coinciding with Boris Johnson’s expected announcement that he intends to press ahead with curtailing the country’s last remaining social restrictions to keep out the coronavirus at a time when case numbers continue to rise.
The Independent’s Daily Edition app headlined the story “Tears for Heroes” and we were one of several outlets to lead the front page on a shot of Southgate embracing the bereft Saka after the shootout, the England manager of course knowing precisely how the Arsenal winger must feel having missed the pivotal penalty himself at Euro 96.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sun and Metro all opted for the same telling moment.
“So Close” declared The Guardian, ”The Ultimate Agony… Penalties Heartbreak Again” is how The Telegraph summarised it, while The Times said “Penalty Curse Denies England Their Dream”.
The Sun and Metro both went for an inevitable pun, leading with, respectively, “Pride of Lions” and “Lions Did Us Proud”.
“It Hurts… But We’re So Proud of You,” chimed in The Daily Express, the big cat connection somewhat less explicit.
“Heartbreak,” said an uncharacteristically speechless Daily Mirror while, at the stranger end of the scale, The Daily Star asked unexpectedly, “Anyone for conkers?”
“Can’t think why but we’ve gone right off footie since last night,” the tabloid huffs, carrying a picture of a giant horse chestnut too large for most children to lift and suggesting a number of alternative activities to the national game that the British public could take up instead of football, including “a bloody good game of tiddlywinks, bog snorkelling, welly-wanging or cheese rolling”.
Erstwhile Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder claiming to be an “alien magnet” looks like the paper’s real scoop to me.
But if it’s escapism you are looking for this morning, your best bet is probably The Financial Times, which wisely sidesteps the whole sorry business to report instead: “Brussels Targets Aviation Fuel Tax in Drive to Cut Carbon Emissions”.
Sigh. What a morning.
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