Bukayo Saka’s ‘special’ moment of redemption

The demons of Euro 2020 had been racist, disgusting and vile. Saka, along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, was subjected to the most horrendous abuse after missing in the shootout against the Italians.


Saka, just 19 at the time, took the fifth kick for England and saw Gianluigi Donnarumma save his effort. He was left in tears on the pitch.

Three years later, and the circumstances could not be more contrasting.

Saka – no longer a teenage squad player, but key to England’s hopes – had dragged his team back into the game with a brilliant strike from 18 yards, just five minutes after Breel Embolo put Switzerland ahead.

And, at the end, after the penalty shootout, he was smiling and celebrating with his team-mates on the pitch amid joyous scenes.

“In that shootout, the smile on Saka’s face was brilliant,” former England defender Izzy Christiansen told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“You can’t help but be reminded of the [Euro] 2020 final and it was great to see him put it away.”

Southgate, who held the sobbing Saka tight on the sodden Wembley pitch in 2021, went through his own shootout pain as a player. His was the one kick saved in the Euro 1996 semi-final as Germany edged past England.

“It was so brave from Bukayo – he is one of our best and we were never in question he would take one,” Southgate said. “But we all knew what he went through.

“Saka has come to England’s rescue again,” added ex-England captain Alan Shearer. “Big players step up in big moments.”

Saka’s stellar showing becomes even more impressive in the context of where he played. Southgate changed formation to a 3-4-2-1, with the Arsenal winger redeployed into a very unfamiliar role at right wing-back.

Saka, who was unhappy to be played as an emergency left-back against Slovakia in the last 16, took to this role with gusto. He provided England with threat and sparkle out wide, beating his markers inside and out – a quality the Three Lions have lacked throughout a Euros campaign that could charitably be described as stodgy at times.

Credit: bbc.com


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