Gareth Southgate’s side reached their first major tournament final in 55 years, but could not beat Roberto Mancini’s Italy side, the last team standing between them and ending more than half a century of hurt and no silverware.
Luke Shaw opened the scoring with the fastest goal in any final of a European Championship, sparking wild celebrations both inside Wembley Stadium and all over the country.
However, the buoyant mood was quashed just after the hour mark when Leonardo Bonucci bundled his effort home to equalise for the Italian’s, a goal that had been coming, such was the relentless pressure from the Azzurri.
Boasting significantly more possession than the hosts, Italy ensured many of the England stars were left chasing shadows, tiring themselves in the process as the tie went the full 120 minutes.
Despite having the luxury of swathes of attacking prowess both on the pitch and to call on from the substitutes bench, England rarely threated Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal after their two minute strike.
Mancini’s men looked more than comfortable recycling possession and wearing England down, before the moment eventually came mid-way through the second half.
After the game, former England international Lineker took to twitter to give his thoughts on the Three Lions tactical set up.
Lineker wrote, “I think going forward England have to find a way of being more attack minded. Braver in possession and throwing more people forward. We have the forward talent to scare teams, at present we seem scared ourselves to release that talent.”
Given Jack Grealish was forced to wait until ten minutes into extra-time before he came on, while duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho played all of about two minutes of the available 120, Lineker has a point.
Southgate’s decision to deploy two defensive-minded midfielders has often drawn criticism, but worked well enough to guide England to the final of the tournament.
However, it is undeniable that the decision in turn does lead to a less attacking outlet, with the Three Lions finding it difficult to apply relentless pressure without much presence when it comes to attacking midfielders.
The isolation between the midfield pairing of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips and striker Harry Kane was clear fairly early on into proceedings, the England skipper forced to feed off scraps and aimless clearances into the channels without a figure behind him pulling the strings.
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Kane himself eventually ended up operating far too deep to pose a threat to the Italians, such was his lack of service throughout the tie.
Lineker’s rally cry for England to become more attacking may potentially fall on deaf ears given this defensive set-up guided the nation to its first final in more than half a century, but if they are to actually start filling the trophy cabinet, they may have to take heed from the ex-England striker.