Gareth Southgate said he is to blame for England's penalty failure in Sunday's Euro 2020 final rather than the three players who missed in the shootout.
Italy won 3-2 on spot kicks at the end of a nerve-shredding night at Wembley that finished 1-1 after extra time. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all unable to convert their penalties as England's 55-year wait for an international trophy goes on.
Southgate claimed he followed the same process that yielded shootout success against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and in UEFA's inaugural Nations League a year later, and he shouldered the burden of England's seventh tournament exit on penalties, 25 years after missing as a player against Germany in the Euro '96 semifinal.
"What they have to know is none of them are on their own," the 50-year-old England boss said. "We win and lose as a team, and the penalty takers are my call. We've worked on them in training; that's my decision. That's not down to the players.
"Tonight, it hasn't gone for us, but we know they were the best takers we had left on the pitch. We tried to get those players onto the pitch. We'd already had to take a couple off during the game itself. So, yeah, of course it is going to be heartbreaking for the boys, but they are not to blame for that; that's my call as a coach."
"That's a process we've been through," Southgate continued. "We've tracked what they've done with their clubs over a long period of time and then what they've shown in training, as well. That's the process that worked for us in Russia and in the Nations League. Tonight, it hasn't quite worked."
Southgate revealed that Prince William visited the dressing room at the final whistle to praise the 26-man squad for their achievement this summer, reaching a first tournament final since 1966 and capturing the imagination of the country, with more than half the population expected to have watched the final on television in addition to the 65,000-strong crowd.
"At the moment, the players are understandably really quiet," Southgate said. "The Duke [of Cambridge] has just been down to see them in the dressing room and has rightly thanked them for what they've done and being fulsome in his praise.
"I said we could have no recriminations. They've got to walk away from here with their heads held high. They've done more than any other team in the last 50 or so years. In terms of the players, they should be incredibly proud of what they've done. Those opportunities in your life are incredibly rare."
"But credit to Italy; they've been outstanding during the whole tournament," the manager added. "The way they used the ball tonight was a little bit better than us. I think they were strong enough in defence to stop us creating anything consistently on their goal."