Good morning, Fear the Wall. What a weekend that was!
Only three years after failing to even qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Italy has completed one of the fastest reversals of fortune of any national team in recent memory. Not only did they win EURO 2020, but they were indisputably the single strongest team in the tournament, beating Belgium, Spain, and England, three teams that were considered potential favorites to win. They were led as always by strong defensive contributions from veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, along with a younger cast of characters like Federico Chiesa, Manuel Locatelli, and of course Gianluigi Donnarumma, who looks ready to set the standard for goalkeeping for a decade or more.
The story of the day should really be the Italians, but as always on Fear the Wall, much of the discussion thus far has concerned England. After four weeks of constantly melting down after every England win, gradually growing more and more angsty as the three lions approached the final, you all can finally breathe easily, as once again Football will not be coming home.
The biggest controversy naturally surrounds manager Gareth Southgate’s selection for the penalties at the end of extra time. Southgate purposefully withheld two subs, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, until the 119th minute, so that they could participate in the shootout. Unfortunately, both youngsters missed their penalties, and 19-year-old Bukayo Saka’s missed penalty was the final nail in the coffin for England. A lot of folks have criticized Southgate for tossing his youngsters onto the pitch at the last moment, a difficult situation for any player, let alone a young player. Critics say that instead, Southgate should have picked an older, more experienced player like Jack Grealish or Raheem Sterling.
Personally, while I sort of understand the criticism, I think it’s worth pointing out that Jack Grealish has only taken one penalty in his club career (which he missed), and that Raheem Sterling is only one for four with Manchester City. Marcus Rashford converted a penalty in the 2018 shootout against Colombia, and Jadon Sancho has taken a few high-pressure penalties for BVB, even if they weren’t quite at the level of a EURO final. Saka is the one that puzzles me. Maybe he does well with penalties in training, but he’s never taken one in a professional competition before, and I think it’s a completely different dynamic taking a penalty on the practice ground than it is at Wembley Stadium in a EURO Final.
Overall, England has much to be proud of, even if they taste of another major title slipping away must be bitter. They’ve got a young and talented squad, and would be one of my favorites to compete for the Jules Rimet trophy in Qatar next year.
Messi Wins the Copa America
While we’ve been mostly focused on the EUROs over the last few weeks, there was another major tournament that ended this week. Argentina defeated Brazil in the Copa America final, earning Lionel Messi his first major international trophy.
Personally, I already thought that Messi was the GOAT and that he didn’t need an international trophy to prove it, but if anything this will help silence a lot of the naysayers who used his lack of international silverware as a point of criticism.
The Daily Buzz
Do you think Southgate was wrong to bring in Sancho and Rashford? If so, what do you think of the argument that Grealish and Sterling also don’t have good penalty records?