Southgate: It feels like my stomach has been ripped out after Italy defeat

12 July 2021, 14:17 | Updated: 12 July 2021, 15:04

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Gareth Southgate said he felt like his "stomach has been ripped out" as he faced the media today after England’s heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

But the England manager insisted his young side "can go again" as he backed the Three Lions to build on their loss at next year's World Cup.

In England’s first appearance in a major final since winning the World Cup in 1966, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed their spot-kicks as Italy won 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

READ MORE: 'You did us so proud': Nation reacts to England's crushing Euro 2020 final loss to Italy

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Southgate had one of the youngest squads at this summer's tournament and said he feels the players can attempt to go one step further and win the World Cup in Qatar next December.

"The younger ones especially, well all of this team, can go again," he said.

"There's no doubt about that, but the young ones are still two, four years from peaking.

"We've got 18, 19, 20 year-olds who have done an incredible job and had a great insight into tournament football and acquitted themselves well throughout.

"There are a huge number of positives from that and those players will be far better for going through so many important wins, so many important landmarks that they've set with historic performances.

"In the main they've performed under huge pressure of being at home for the majority of the tournament, being one of the favourites."

Southgate believes the building blocks of the squad he is hoping to lead to glory in Qatar began in Russia three years ago but knows the recent tournament improvements cannot guarantee future success.

"I think Russia was the beginning," he said.

"We had seven in the starting team last night from Russia and that experience has been critical during the big matches in this tournament.

"So to add the young players in at the times we did, the inexperienced players in at the times we did, there is now another group with more learning, more understanding of that high level.

"Because of what they have been through in these two tournaments they will want more, they will know they can get close, they will have belief and that's what we have to build on."

He added: "If you want sustained success as a team you have to be constantly evolving, constantly improving, constantly finishing in those latter stages and most teams that win - France went through what we are feeling now in 2016, Germany, Spain went close a couple of times before they won.

"That is normally part of the process that you have to go through. The fact that we've had the first signs of consistency - semi-final, final - that has to be a step in the right direction."

Southgate said he was in need of a rest but will then make sure the rebuilding of England's national team continues, although he refused to commit to his future as manager.

"When my logical brain comes back to life in a few days that is the process we have to go through," he added.

"We have got to keep continuing that and England have to keep that track going; whoever is here, whoever is at the FA, whoever is at St George's Park.

"That's what we have to build, that's the vision at the start and we are showing the signs with the help of the clubs who are producing some fantastic young players.

"All of those things have to align because any part of that football pyramid that isn't strong affects the national team.

"At the moment lots of things are starting to come together and we have to continue that."

Southgate also described the racist online abuse directed at Rashford, Sancho and Saka after the final as "unforgivable".

He said: "For some of them to be abused is unforgivable really.

"I know a lot of that has come from abroad, that people who track those things have been able to explain that, but not all of it.

"It's just not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue.

"We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together.

"We heal together as a team now, and we're there for them, and I know that 99 per cent of the public will be as well."