Bukayo Saka declares himself ready to step up for England should he be required in a penalty shootout as the Arsenal man insists he has ‘matured and progressed’ since the agony of last summer through taking them for his club
England star Bukayo Saka has said he is ready to step up and take a penalty for his country should he be required after banishing the ghosts of last summer.
Saka, 21, missed England’s fifth and final penalty against Italy at Wembley last summer as Gareth Southgate’s side agonisingly missed out on the European Championship crown.
The forward, alongside Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – who both also missed – suffered rabid abuse on social media thereafter, but Saka has sought to exorcise the demons through becoming one of Arsenal‘s primary takers in the year following.
Bukayo Saka missed England’s fifth and final penalty against Italy at Wembley last summer
Saka has taken three penalties since the Euro final defeat – against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool – and scored them all.
Speaking on the day after England’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over Senegal, in which he scored the third goal, his third of the tournament so far, Saka declared himself ready to take one.
‘I’ve obviously matured and progressed since then,’ he said when asked how he had moved on – and changed – since last summer.
‘I wouldn’t have stepped up the times I have for Arsenal if i wasn’t confident,’ he added. ‘So yeah if the moment comes, I would step up.’
The miss ensured England agonisingly missed out on their maiden European Championship crown
Saka went on to say that he has tried to move on from that moment, ensuring it has not come to define him as a player – while also accepting that it is something that will always be with him.
‘Personally, I’ve tried to move on from that moment,’ he said. ‘I can never forget it – but at the same time coming out here and scoring those three goals lifts me a lot. The support I have received from the fans helps.’
Asked whether him and Rashford, who has also enjoyed a stellar tournament so far, also having scored three times, support each other through their painful shared experience, he said that all of England’s players strive to encourage one another.
Saka has since stepped up for his club side, Arsenal, on a number of occasions – and has not missed
‘No, it’s not just Marcus Rashford and I,’ he said. ‘We all support each other. It shows how close we all are and it’s helping us going forward.’
England will face France on Saturday night bidding to reach their third consecutive major tournament semi-final.
With conversations raging about whether or not Gareth Southgate should look to change his line up to combat France’s array of attacking talent, and in particular Kylian Mbappe, Saka inferred that England should be comfortable in their own skin – praising the experience within the squad.
The England forward praised France – but said that England have experience in the big games
‘There’s no doubt the quality we have in our team,’ he said. ‘We’re blessed with a really great front line.
‘I’m not a manager, I’m a player. We have to trust Gareth (Southgate) and the coaching staff, I don’t see us needing to change too much – we are top scorers in the tournament.
‘This team has a lot players that have played in big tournaments – a lot of tournament experience. Last few tournaments we have done well. When the big games come we have a lot of players that know what they need to do.’