‘Ultimate agony’: How the English media reacted to Euro 2020 heartbreak

Huge disappointment across the papers but an upbeat tone about England’s future

The excruciating agony of England's loss on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 dominates the front pages of English newspapers after the team repeated history at Wembley.

There is no more poignant parallel than manager Gareth Southgate consoling his players 25 years after his miss sent England out of Euro 96 at the same stadium, and the image features on many of the fronts.

The Telegraph says “The ultimate agony … penalties heartbreak again” over the top of a giant, poster-style front page showing Southgate with his arms around Bukayo Saka. The paper’s columnist, Jim White, draws on the aphorism familiar to many football fans to sum up the evening: “Even as the minutes drifted towards penalties, hope remained intact. But you know what hope does: it kills you.”

The Mail features a very similar image alongside the headline: “It all ends in tears”. The paper also promises a 24-page special pullout edition inside although that might be for fans with a strong constitution this morning.


Writing inside, Oliver Holt says Wembley was “literally bouncing” after Luke Shaw’s brilliant opening goal but England were finally undone by the “ghosts of the past” which also reared their ugly head in chaotic crowd scenes before the match.

The Guardian’s poster-style front page also features the Gareth Southgate/Saka picture and the headline “So close”. Chief sports writer Barney Ronay nevertheless finds some solace in the devastating defeat by emphasising that the players have lit up the summer with their run to the final in a tournament that has lifted the country’s spirits.

He writes: “After a year and half of fear and isolation football has, for the last few weeks, provided a reminder that other things also exist, that there is also hope and warmth to be found, other stories to be written.”

The Express also seeks some positive note from the glorious few weeks of the tournament with a front page headline saying “It hurts … but we’re so proud of you”.

And the Sun exhorts the nation to be proud of the vanquished players with the headline “Pride of lions”, and notes that the World Cup is “only next year”.

The Mirror and i both go with a simple “Heartbreak”.

The Times headline says “Penalty curse denies England their dream” while it has also produced a wraparound for the main edition featuring a picture of the dejected England players and the headline “Arrivederci”.