ROY Hodgson was left cursing the psychological block England suffer at penalty shootouts as they were knocked out of Euro 2012 in a manner that has now become a national "obsession". "We went down the same road again," he lamented.
The England manager said that his team had “given their all” but were “maybe not quite good enough” to defeat Italy and progress to the semi-finals, losing 4-2 on penalties after the 90 minutes and extra time ended goalless. They exited Euro 2012, Hodgson said, with “their heads held high”.
“When we took it to penalties I was hoping this was our tournament but the practising didn’t help,” Hodgson admitted with Ashley Young striking the crossbar and Ashley Cole’s spot-kick saved.
“I can’t fault the players as a lot of them were running on empty,” Hodgson said.
“Of course, [I believed when Montolivo missed his penalty] because the five penalty takers we had were very good. I’d been watching Ashley Young and Ashley Cole smashing in penalties in training but you can’t reproduce the tired legs, pressure and nervous tension It has become an obsession for us in English football.
“Italy stood up to penalties better than us, [Andrea] Pirlo’s being the example. I thought the chances were there for both teams but, as the second half went on, we tiring very badly and they came at us again and again. We have lost and we have gone out without losing a game with our heads held high.
“We tried our best. We worked as hard as we could, survived the cramps and the physical problems that one or two players suffered.
“Whether we did enough or whether it was good enough, that’s a matter of opinion. But we certainly tried to win it in 90 minutes and then the additional 30 minutes.
"We weren’t playing for penalties. Our defending was very resolute and we did very well, especially during the strong spell or pressure in the second-half, to hold out and give ourselves a chance. Unfortunately it was a chance we couldn’t take.”
Hodgson admitted Italy had played “well” but also pointed out that England had missed chances of their own. “It wasn’t quite simply a case of Balotelli missing a couple,” he said. “I wouldn’t begrudge them their victory but, for long periods, it was an even game and interesting tactical battle. They didn’t get behind us on too many occasions. We didn’t do as well with the ball as we should have done. Which team deserved to win it, that’s a matter for debate but, talking about my own team, we put up a very good effort. Had we won it, we wouldn’t have been apologising for the victory.”
Hodgson said it was “a sad moment” to leave the tournament and paid tribute to the England supporters in Ukraine and Poland and back home.
“That’s made the defeat even harder because we so much wanted to stay on and give the fans a reward for the support they’ve given us,” he said. “I couldn’t ask any more than the players gave. They gave their all. We have to accept we weren’t quite good enough to win it over the 120 minutes and, in the shootout, we went down the same road we’ve been so many times before.
“I’ve been very happy with what I’ve seen with this group of players, and the way they’ve responded to the demands of an England shirt. They’ve shown they’re capable of stepping up to the plate.
“They’re bitterly disappointed they couldn’t take it one step further, but we’ve got good young payers coming through, and this has been important for them.