'Southgate proved many of us wrong' - Neville defends England manager's 'pragmatic' approach after Euro 2020 final defeat

Gareth Southgate Italy vs England Euro 2020 finalGetty Images

Gary Neville has defended Gareth Southgate's "pragmatic" approach after England's Euro 2020 final defeat, insisting the head coach has "proved many of us wrong".

England missed the chance to win their first major tournament since the 1966 World Cup after losing on penalties to Italy in the European Championship final.

Luke Shaw gave the Three Lions an early lead in the Wembley showpiece but Leonardo Bonucci equalised for the Azzurri in the 67th minute before a goalless extra-time period and a dramatic shootout.

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What's been said?

Former Manchester United and England defender Neville told Sky Sports : "I saw after the game people saying Southgate should have made more substitutions, these players should have taken the penalties; these are the same people who have been saying that he should have played a different system against Germany, that he should not have played Kieran Trippier against Croatia, that he should have played a more attacking system.

"I genuinely believe that Southgate and his players navigated their way to this final in the only way they could and that was to be a little more pragmatic - put the two holding midfield players in front of defence; if it needed to be a back five, it was because of the shape or quality of the other team.

"He found a way to get to the final. Sometimes we all like to be purists at times and want him to find a way to play all those attacking players but I don't think England would have got to the final if they had gone punch to punch with some of the nations they came across along the way.

"I think Gareth knew he had to play a certain way to get to the final and he did that. At the end, it comes down to small margins, details like penalties. This is not the time to be criticising tactics and substitutions.

"The reality is that Southgate has proved so many of us wrong - not just in this tournament but over the last two years - about decisions he has made - it would be a nonsense now to start suggesting we are right about substitutions and penalty takers when most of us have not seen this in our lifetimes."

England's Euro 2020 journey

England exorcised the demons of their 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia by beating Zlatko Dalic's side 1-0 in their group-stage opener, before qualifying for the Round of 16 as Pool D winners after a 0-0 draw with Scotland and a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic.

Southgate's side then laid down a huge statement of intent by seeing off arch-rivals Germany 2-0 at Wembley, and followed up that result by thrashing Ukraine 4-0 in the last eight.

The Three Lions impressed once again to conquer Denmark after extra time in the semi-finals, but winning a maiden European crown ultimately proved to be beyond them as Italy produced a classy display in the final to land their second title.

What's next?

England will now have to dust themselves off ahead of the resumption of their latest World Cup qualifying campaign, with their next Group I outing against Hungary scheduled to take place on September 2.

Should the Three Lions reach Qatar 2022 as expected, they will once again be among the favourites for the most prestigious prize in international football after an encouraging four weeks which has seen the country unite behind Southgate and his exciting group of young stars.

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