Michael Owen has slammed the theory that Bukayo Saka was too young to handle the pressure of taking the crucial penalty in England's Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy.
England suffered heartbreak in their first European Championship final at Wembley on Sunday, with Italy emerging with the spoils following a dramatic penalty shootout which saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka all miss from 12 yards.
Saka took the Three Lions' fifth spot-kick after seeing Jordan Pickford keep out Jorginho's final effort for the Azzurri, but couldn't find a way past Gianluigi Donnarumma, with head coach Gareth Southgate subsequently criticised for putting such a heavy burden on the 19-year-old's shoulders.
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What's been said?
It has been suggested that the England boss should have let a more experienced performer such as Jack Grealish step up for the decisive kick, but Owen has defended his decision to opt for Saka.
"So much to debate following #EURO2020 but I simply can’t have this “too young at 19” theory to take a penalty," the former Three Lions and Liverpool striker wrote on Twitter.
"In fact, if my experiences are anything to go by it’s easier being young!
"Fearless, confident, no previous scars etc."
In a further tweet, Owen wrote: "Just checked the ages of players who’ve missed at major tournaments since Italia 90; Pearce 28 Waddle 29 Southgate 25 Batty 29 Ince 30 Beckham 29 Vassell 24 Carragher 28 Gerrard 26 Lampard 28 Young 27 Cole 32 As I thought, the theory is absolute b*llocks."
Saka may only be at the start of what could be a long and successful career, but has already proven that he can mix it with the best at both club and international level.
He made his senior debut for Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 2018, and has since played 88 games for the club across all competitions, winning one FA Cup while recording 11 goals and 21 assists.
Saka also now has nine caps to his name for England, with four of those coming at the Euros as he played a key role in helping his country reach their first major final since 1966.
How did Southgate justify his shootout selection?
Southgate took full responsibility for England's defeat, but also attempted to justify his shootout selection by revealing that Rashford, Sancho and Saka had all been the top performers from the spot in training.
“I chose the guys to take the kicks," he said post-match. "I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation. We win and lose together as a team. It is my decision to give him [Saka] that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon. We worked through them in training. That is the order we came to.
"Penalties are my call. We worked in training. It’s not down to the players. We know they were the best takers we had left on the pitch. Of course, it’s going to be heartbreaking for the boys but they are not to blame for that.”