No-one should be surprised with Roy Keane's take on England's heart-breaking loss 2 months ago

No-one should be surprised with Roy Keane's take on England's heart-breaking loss

The man loves brave footballers. He loves winners even more.

Roy Keane was left as rattled and stunned as most of the crowd at Wembley tonight, and he was a 'neutral'. Those backing Italy and England were though the wringer, and then some.

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"You could feel it in London this morning. A lot of fans having a good day so far. Obviously, they'd want to finish well. I can't build this game up any more, especially for the players out there... These are big players who are used to big occasions. They'll be ready for it.

"Sometimes people say semi-finals must be tougher. They're in the final now - huge opportunity but, my goodness, it is going to be a huge, huge test for England, and for the Italians as well."

Declan Rice and Raheem Sterling of England warm up prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Final. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

ITV were ramping up the 55-years of hurt narrative before the game kicked off, with host Mark Pougatch asking Ian Wright and Gary Neville to share their first memories of close calls or heartbreaks as young England fans.

After Neville mentioned how former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson had a luckless injury run in major tournaments, Keane was asked for his thoughts on why England never got over the line, again, after the 1966 World Cup.

"Bryan Robson, what a great character," Keane began. "And you can talk about the great England players have had, and never got to a final. It makes it an even bigger achievement for these lads."

"Yes, of course [you wonder why England never made it to a final]," he added. "You talk about Robson, Gazza, Alan Shearer, all these boys... (pausing for comic effect) Wrighty, Nev!

"But sometimes you need a bit of luck to get over the line, or that spirit that they maybe didn't have in the past, or the calmness of the manager... these players have taken all that on board, but the next step is the biggest one for them, because this game has such a habit of kicking you where it hurts."

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Reminded by Pougatch of Keane's mantra that there is no point getting to a final unless you win the lot. The former Ireland captain remarked, "You do hope Southgate has reminded his players, 'Don't forget to win! Don't forget to win.' It's pretty important."

As the game drew near, the noise ramped up and the V.I.P section filled up the likes of Tom Cruise, David Beckham, a raft of royals, Kate Moss and Geoff Hurst [and others, we're sure], Keane gave hope to England watching tuning in.

"This is the strongest England squad they've had in 20, 30 years," he said. "They've got attacking weapons all across the pitch and lots of options on the bench."

And then host Mark Pougatch ruined the buzz, just as they threw over to the Sam Matterface and Lee Dixon commentary duo.

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"Are you a bit jealous?" Pougatch asked Keane

"No, I'm not jealous. I was always proud to play for my home, Ireland."

Bold and brash. At least he did not ask Keane if it was coming home.

England got off to a belting start as Luke Shaw half-volleyed in the opener and the hosts reduced Italy to speculative efforts and ambles down cul-de-sacs. 1-0 at the break and the BELIEF-O-METER was practically humming.

As Ian Wright and Gary Neville raved about Shaw's crisply struck goal, Keane was critical of the Italian defence, saying Kieran Trippier should not have been allowed to get his cross in so easily.

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ITV replayed the gantry scenes when Shaw crashed in the opener, and Keane was there grabbing the tea so they didn't completely spill over his notes.

Neville, who was also living it large when Shaw scored, remarked that Keane had spent the next 20 minutes scolding him for soaking his notes.

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Keane deadpanned that he had put a lot of work into those notes and you felt this wasn't over yet. For Neville, at least.

The second half saw England fall back into their own half and Italy grow in confidence.

Jordan Pickford produced one fine save but it did not rouse his teammates into more affirmative action. Instead, Italy piled forward and won a corner.

Marco Veratti got a header away and Pickford tipped it off the post, only for Leonardo Bonucci to smack home the rebound. 1-1.

Marco Verratti hits the post from a header before Leonardo Bonucci's equaliser against England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The rest of the game played out anxiously as both sides, as soon as we got past 70 minutes, seemed to accept the spectre of penalties grew larger. And so it ended, 1-1 after 90 minutes.

"We'll find out over the next half an hour. Does Gareth stick or twist? They could do with some more energy."

Jack Grealish came on for Mason Mount but energy was waning on both sides. Italy went closest to scoring in the first half of extra time but we were still level.

"Concentration is the key word. They've been playing 10 or 12 months now. The legs are gone. It's about the heads now."

Keane joked that he wanted penalties at this stage, as England brought on Marcus Rashford was brought on for the last push [and possibly a spot-kick]. He came on with Jadon Sancho with just two minutes to play. Their brief - score your penalties.

"I'm quite relaxed," quipped Keane. No doubt Neville had fetched him a fresh brew at some stage.

And so a dramatic penalty shoot-out ensued, with England getting out to an early lead before missing their last three to lose 3-2.

Neville said Southgate needed a hug. Wright was a shattered man. Keane, the lover of a good old ding-dong, was in his element.

"An amazing night. A brilliant night of football," he said.

"We said that heading to penalties, that no team deserved to lose it. Someone is always going to miss a penalty, but it is not a night to be critical of any England players, Gareth or his staff.

"Instead of criticising players that missed, I admire them for stepping up. And all credit goes to both goalkeepers for making some brilliant saves.

"A tough night for England, but sometimes you have to lose to win. The World Cup is only around the corner and these players will be the better for it. But you have to take your medicine and move on."

No-one that knows Keane should be surprised by his take at the death. He just wants lads to drain themselves to the last for the cause. Both sides did that, so he will leave Wembley tonight a content man.

A long night and a crazy night to end an absorbing contest.

Italy, the team that started Euro 2020 off in style, ended up grinding it out and breaking English hearts in a shoot-out again.

By the time England get another major tournament crack, it will be 56 years of hurt. They have a squad capable of ending the wait, though.