Jordan Henderson is a consummate captain, regardless of the situation. Even when he is not officially the captain, the veteran midfielder is always one of the first to step up and take on a leadership role when needed.
Such was the case after England lost a heartbreaker of a match against France in the Round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup. Official England captain Harry Kane was inconsolable, having missed a late penalty kick that would have tied the match 2-2, and so it was Henderson who stepped up to speak to the media in his stead.
“Straight after the game, it’s difficult to find the right words,” said the Liverpool captain. “I thought we gave everything in the game.
“We were disappointed to go 1-0 down but I thought the character and the mentality to keep going in the second half and find the equalizer, I can’t say anymore really. We gave it everything and unfortunately it wasn’t our night.”
After England conceded an early Aurélien Tchouaméni goal, Henderson and The Three Lions mounted a ferocious response. Harry Kane dispatched a penalty earned by Bukayo Saka in the 54th minute, but England fell behind again in the 78th minute after an Olivier Giroud header.
England were given a lifeline in the 81st minute after Mason Mount was blatantly barged over in the box and eventually awarded a penalty, but in his second trip to the spot Kane blazed the ball high over the bar. Afterwards, rather than cast blame, Henderson sought to defend the official captain of the team.
“We know how many penalties Harry has scored for us,” Henderson noted. “He scored the first one and how many has he contributed for us to even get here? So he’ll be stronger for it in the long run I’m sure. He’s a world-class striker, our captain and as a team we wouldn’t be here without him.”
England generated plenty of chances outside of the penalties, and likely should have scored one or two more. Some heroic goalkeeping from Hugo Lloris was the difference in the match. It was a great showing from Henderson and the rest of the squad despite the result.
“We felt really good,” he added. “The performances were really good, the focus and the hunger were good every single day while we were here. Unfortunately, like I said, it wasn’t our night. We’ve got to give credit to France who are a good team, but I felt it was there for us to win tonight.”
With Henderson and unused substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold out with England along with Virgil van Dijk and the Dutch and Alisson and Fabinho with Brazil, France’s Ibrahima Konaté in the only Red still in contention. He and France face Morocco on Wednesday at 7PM GMT for a chance to go to the final.