England’s John Stones hits back at Italian press as tensions rise for Euro 2020 final

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England defender John Stones has hit back at criticism that the decision to award the Three Lions’ a penalty in their Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark was soft. A controversial spot-kick handed captain Harry Kane the opportunity to score the winning goal against the Danes and he landed England a place in their first major final since 1966.  

Raheem Sterling darted into the penalty area in the first half of extra-time and was first clipped by Joakim Maehler before Mathias Jensen also made contact with the Manchester City winger. 

Referee Danny Makkelie awarded a spot-kick – and had his decision vindicated by VAR – from which Kane converted the decisive goal after goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel parried the effort straight back to the Tottenham forward.

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England had to come from behind to reach their first European Championship showdown, in which they will face Italy at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. 

Mikkel Damsgaard fired home a sensational 30-yard free kick to hand Denmark the lead. However, England can argue that the goal should not have stood as the Danish players were stood within one yard of the English wall, which is against FIFA’s Laws of the Game. 

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“Definitely not. I think it was a penalty,” Stones argued in a press conference on Friday. 

“I’m biased but I saw it back and I think the referee made the correct decision, or VAR made the correct decision.  

“It’s something that I don’t want to get into or be swayed by, I suppose. From my opinion it was the correct decision, he’s been bumped from two sides.” 

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The Italian press slammed Makkelie’s award of a penalty ahead of the final at Wembley.  

Corriere dello Sport, a national sports newspaper in Italy, went with the headline “Zuppa Inglese”, which translates to ‘English soup’. 

Soup is considered a boring dish in Italy, with the suggestion being that England were dull because they relied on an own goal and a controversial penalty to reach the final. 

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“Southgate needs the help of the referee to reach the final against Italy,” the tagline underneath the main headline read. 

Italy reached the final via a penalty shootout win over Spain on Tuesday.

Stones has said that his England team-mates will give all they have to win the nation’s first major football honour since the famous 4-2 win over West Germany in  the 1966 World Cup final.

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“From my personal perspective it’s approaching the game how we have every other one in this tournament, or at club level, and giving everything,” the 26-year-old continued.

“From outside what I’ve been hearing is the England team, whoever plays or contributes, has given everything for that shirt in the past few years.

“We all love the England team, growing up as fans, being able to play for them now, we absolutely cherish it.”

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