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Marcus Rashford has spoken for the first time about his England penalty heartache in a moving social media post, and says he will “never apologise for who I am” after being targeted by vile racist abuse.
The Manchester United forward admitted he “lacked confidence” heading into the final after a “difficult season” and revealed the torment of seeing his spot-kick come back off the post, apologising to the nation and admitting: “I can score penalties in my sleep, so why not that one?”
The 23-year-old had played a limited role in the tournament after a dip in form that continued from the end of the club season, but was brought on late in extra-time to take a spot-kick, having been trusted by Gareth Southgate after scoring during the shootout win over Columbia at the 2018 World Cup.
However, he was unable to repeat the feat despite sending goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way as his effort struck the upright.
“I don’t even know where to start and I don’t even know how to put into words how I’m feeling at this exact time,” Rashford wrote.
“I’ve had a difficult season, I think that’s been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence. I’ve always backed myself for a penalty, but something didn’t feel quite right.
“During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately the result was not what I wanted. I felt as though I had let my team-mates down. I felt as if I’d let everyone down. A penalty was all I’d been asked to contribute for the team. I can score penalties in my sleep, so why not that one?
“It’s been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry. I wish it had of gone differently.”
Rashford, Saka and Sancho have all been targeted by racist abuse on social media in the aftermath of the defeat.
A mural in Rashford’s honour in his hometown of Withington, Manchester, was defaced within hours of his miss but supporters have subsequently redecorated the artwork with messages of support.
“I’ve grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch,” Rashford said, in reference to his campaign against homelessness and child hunger in the UK.
“I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from. I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands.
“I dreamt of days like this. The messages I’ve received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up.
“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that. For all the kind messages thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.”