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Southgate says player abuse is ‘unforgivable’ as England boss prepares to take a break

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Gareth Southgate wants his England squad to heal together following the pain of losing the Euro 2020 final – and insisted abuse aimed towards any of his players is “unforgivable”.

England’s hopes of glory at Wembley on Sunday were dashed by Italy in a penalty shoot-out, during which substitutes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka failed to convert from the spot.

The trio were targets for racist online abuse in the aftermath to the match. The Football Association condemned such behaviour in a strongly worded statement, as well as calling on both the government and social media companies to take action to stop such incidents continuing to occur.

Speaking the morning after his team’s heartbreaking defeat, England boss Southgate made clear his squad had been a “beacon of light” during the European Championship, helping unite the nation during their impressive run.

“I’m not totally across everything, but my first thoughts this morning are with the boys that have done so well for us,” he said.

“The players have had such a great togetherness and spirit and brought our country together. They should be, and I think they are, incredibly proud of what they have done.

“For some of them to be abused is unforgivable. Some of it has come from abroad, we have been told this, but some of it is from this country.

“It’s not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light to bring people together and the national team stands for everybody. That togetherness has to continue.

“We felt the energy and positivity from the fans and I’m incredibly proud of that.”

Southgate added: “We heal together as a team now, we are there for them [the players who missed penalties] and I know that 99 per cent of the public will be as well, because they will appreciate how well they have played.”

England seized an early lead thanks to Luke Shaw’s first international goal after less than two minutes but were pegged back by Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half equaliser, forcing extra time.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved penalties from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho, yet Saka saw his attempt – England’s fifth – turned away by Gianluigi Donnarumma, meaning Italy prevailed 3-2 at the end of an dramatic shoot-out.

While his focus will have to quickly switch to securing qualification for next year’s World Cup in Qatar, Southgate admitted he is in need of a break.

Asked about reports he could be offered a new contract, Southgate replied: “I don’t think now is an appropriate time to be thinking about it.

“We have to qualify for Qatar. I need time to go away and reflect on Euro 2020. I need a rest.

“Its an amazing experience to lead your country in these tournaments, but it takes a toll. I don’t want to commit to anything longer than I should. It’s not a financial thing.

“I don’t want to outstay my welcome. But, as I sit here today, I would be wanting to take the team to Qatar.”

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