Last night was tough to watch as an Arsenal fan and an England fan.
England put in a great performance against Italy, but came up short on penalties with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missing their spot kicks.
Watching Saka cover his face and seeing his teammates running over to console him was heartbreaking; he did not deserve that.
But let’s not get distracted from the fact that Saka is for many reasons a national hero.
Firstly, nobody expected him to be so heavily relied upon in this tournament. I thought he would maybe get 20 minutes against the Czech Republic and to be honest, just to see him play I would have been more than happy with that.
But through his excellence in training and his spark in games, he became one of England’s best players at this tournament.
In our first two games, without Saka, we weren’t exactly creative. Saka brought a breath of fresh air to that team and was arguably unlucky to not start the final.
The fact that at 19 he was the 5th penalty taker, meaning on another day he could have been taking a penalty to win us the Euros, is frankly unreal. He has shown maturity beyond his years.
Any fan directing racial abuse to him, Sancho, or Rashford needs to be reported. They are all young and still learning, but penalties can be harsh. Italy and England were head and shoulders above the other teams at the Euros this summer and it felt wrong that there had to be a winner. It felt even worse that Saka’s miss determined the winner (and in the wrong sense).
However, he has experienced so many highs and lows in football already. This will hurt for a while, but it will also light a fire in him. I have no doubt that he will be tearing the league up next season.
Photo Credit: pxhere.com