England footballers have been hailed as heroes who should be “so proud” of themselves for their efforts in a historic Euros campaign which ended in defeat after a nail-biting penalty shootout.
Fans were left devastated when the nation’s dreams of being crowned champions of Europe in front of a home crowd at Wembley Stadium were crushed in the final seconds on Sunday night.
Italy ended the Three Lions’ bid for glory with a 3-2 victory on penalties in London, in a game which had earlier seen ticketless fans breach security to get into the stadium.
The players should be “so proud” of themselves for their efforts, the Duke of Cambridge said, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they “deserve great credit”.
William, who was at the match with the Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George, urged the players to “hold your heads high”.
In a tweet from the KensingtonRoyal account, signed W, William congratulated the Italian football team on their win.
He wrote: “Heartbreaking. Congratulations @Azzurri on a great victory. @England, you’ve all come so far, but sadly this time it wasn’t our day. You can all hold your heads high, and be so proud of yourselves — I know there’s more to come.”
Mr Johnson, who was also at the match with his wife Carrie, tweeted: “That was a heartbreaking result to end #Euro2020 but Gareth Southgate and his @England squad played like heroes.
“They have done the nation proud and deserve great credit.”
England’s early lead, putting them 1-0 up just two minutes into the first half and prompting ecstasy from the crowd including a beaming Prince George, was not enough to clinch victory as Italy equalised in the second half.
After the match, riot police could be seen breaking through crowds outside Wembley Stadium as fans departed.
Beer bottles were thrown amid chants against Italy and the Metropolitan Police said there had been 45 arrests by officers policing the final.