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‘The very best of our country’: Praise for England team despite heartbreak

Despite the Euro 2020 final coming down to the wire and ending in heartache, politicians, popstars and authors took to Twitter to share their pride in the England team

England’s Euros run ended in disappointment at Wembley, but was marked by an outpouring of pride for the England team across the nation – and hope for next year’s World Cup.

After being pegged to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes, Gareth Southgate’s squad lost 3-2 to Italy in a nail-biting penalty shootout.

The heartbreak didn’t stop thousands from highlighting the positive effect the team, captained by Harry Kane, had in bringing the country together – and standing up for diversity – after 18 months of pandemic challenges.

Former England captain Alan Shearer empathised with the “hurt” and “anger” the players will feel, telling BBC Breakfast that football “can be a cruel, cruel game”.

“But when you look at the whole picture they should feel very proud of what they have given us,” he added, “because they have given us hope, put smiles on our faces and pulled a lot of people together over the past month.”

Watching the game from the US, pop icon Adele posted a picture wearing an England shirt and said: “You did us so proud! You brought our game home and brought us all together.”

“It took me 10 major champs to win my first in London 2012,” said former Olympic athlete, Greg Rutherford, on Twitter.

“No one remembers the losses and everyone loves to celebrate that special night. This England team and especially these young boys will go on to greatness. What they need now is your love and support.”

As many as 31 million people in the UK watched the Euro 2020 final, including millions of England fans hoping the national team’s best tournament run since the 1960s would end in glory.

That they didn’t was “heartbreaking,” said Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party. 

“On and off the pitch, this team is the very best of our country,” he added.

“They’ve done us proud.”

The squad was lauded for being vocal in its opposition to racism and discrimination despite, at times, criticism from fans. Some players received a torrent of racial abuse on social media after the final whistle which has been widely condemned.

“Growing up and living in England for many of us means often being told that we don’t belong,” said Zara Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South. “That what’s English isn’t ours. How wrong the racists are.

“This team is ours,” she added. “The joy of victory & the pain of falling short belongs to us all.

“That’s the future, on and off the pitch.”

Despite friendly rivalries between England and other UK nations, support for the disappointed squad and staff came from all corners of the country.

Former SNP councillor Rosa Zambonini said: “Those young men for England look devastated and my heart goes right out to them BUT all of those men played well, took a knee, made society look at racism, fed hungry kids.

“That will change the world, football just exists in that world. Lift your heads lads.”

Penalty misses from Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka meant Italy left Wembley with the cup, but supporters were keen to emphasise the blame did not rest on their shoulders.

“No-one let us down,” said Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow secretary for work and pensions. “Huge courage required to take pens to decide a tournament like that.”

Reynolds gave a special shout out to Jordan Pickford, Everton and England goalkeeper, for his performance.

“Particularly proud of @JPickford1,” he tweeted. “Best goalkeeper of the tournament and almost did it for us tonight.”

The players left Wembley with a “heck of a lot to be proud of” despite defeat, author and blogger The Secret Barrister said, dubbing them “by far the most admirable England team and manager [they] can recall”.

Next year’s World Cup, set to be held in Qatar – a controversial choice overshadowed by accusations of human rights abuses – will be a chance for the England team to make things right, some said.

“In the past three years, we’ve had our best World Cup performance for 28 years, followed by our best tournament performance for 55 years,” said author David Skelton. “It hurts like hell but this team is capable of anything, has the entire nation behind them and has a big point to prove in Qatar.”

The squad’s Euros success reinvigorated the nation’s historic love of football, others said – and welcomed new fans into the mix for the first time.

“I want the team to know this,” Karin Robinson, host of the Democratically: 2020 podcast, tweeted. “Before this tournament, my daughter thought football was just for boys and, though she loved a kick about, claimed to hate football. 

“Now she’s obsessed, wants me to find her a club where she can play. For us, it came home. Thank you!”

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