Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang believes Bukayo Saka can turn his England penalty shoot-out agony into a positive following his miss in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.
Stepping up to take England’s fifth penalty of the shoot-out, knowing that he had to score to keep the Three Lions’ dream alive, Saka saw his effort saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, meaning the Italians won 3-2 on penalties, following a 1-1 stalemate at the end of 120 minutes of nail-biting action.
Saka had the weight of the world on his shoulders, as both Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho had failed to convert England’s third and fourth penalties, respectively.
After seeing his spot-kick saved, Saka stood close to where he struck the ball from and was visibly upset, before being comforted by the likes of Luke Shaw, Kalvin Phillips and Connor Coady.
It was a heartbreaking moment for the 19-year-old, who had shown so much promise throughout the tournament, especially against Germany in the famous 2-0 win in the round of 16.
But despite suffering the lowest point of his career so far, Arsenal striker Aubameyang is backing Saka to bounce back even stronger, insisting that it will “build his success.”
Taking to Instagram, Aubameyang said: “Proud of you my little bro. This will build your success, you will see.”
Aubameyang is believed to be one of Saka’s closest friends within the Gunners camp and was the man responsible for handing the winger his widely-used nickname, that, of course, being ‘Little Chilli’.
Although Saka will now take a well-deserved break before reporting back to London Colney for pre-season training, he will return to the club’s training base knowing that he has the full support of everyone connected with the club.
Following his spot-kick disappointment on Sunday evening, former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville insisted that he could “hold his head high” after such a series of impressive performances during the tournament.
“Absolutely heartbreaking for the boy, but not only is Gareth Southgate going to have to cuddle him, the whole nation is going to need to cuddle him,” Neville told ITV Sport.
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“Gone are the days whereby a penalty taker that misses gets criticised and lambasted. Everybody has loved this boy over the last few weeks and they’ll love him for the next few weeks as well.
“He’s been absolutely brilliant, every single one of them. The manager, the staff, the players have been outstanding through this tournament.
“That young man there (Saka) hold your head high because we’re going to look after him over the next few months.”