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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
James defends Vassell

By Phil McNulty
Our man with England

David James has jumped to the defence of Darius Vassell after he missed the crucial penalty in the shoot-out that sent England crashing out of Euro 2004 against Portugal.

David Beckham and Ashley Cole console Darius Vassell

Vassell saw his final penalty saved by Ricardo, who then scored himself to seal a 6-5 win on penalties after the quarter-final ended 2-2.

James said: "That wasn't a miss. What else could he do? He has hit the target and the keeper has made a great save from him.

"I said to him that at least he didn't miss the target - and that was not a dig at anyone else. Nobody blames Darius at all."

England goalkeeper James was equally frustrated that he failed to save any of Portugal's penalties, with Rui Costa the only miss after he blazed wildly over.

He has hit the target and the keeper has made a great save from him
David James on Darius Vassell

He said: "I'm gutted I didn't save one. They had seven and I didn't save one. After what happened at the end of the season with Manchester City, I fancied myself to at least save one."

But James added: "It's the fairest way you can go out of the tournament - as much as it is a bit of a lottery.

"The frustration for all of us was that there was nothing wrong with Sol Campbell's goal and after 88 minutes we would have gone through.

"The criteria for getting through and winning this tournament was decent play with a decent squad and I think we had that. The one issue we've got no major control over is luck.

"If Sol Campbell's goal goes in, luck is on your side, we go through. It's gone against and we've been unlucky.

"In extra-time we were tired. The lads were getting tired and, like I said after the France game, you can't give decent teams too many opportunities. Eventually you are going to break.

"We haven't played badly. We've got to look forward to the World Cup, the qualifiers, and as long as the gaffer Sven-Goran Eriksson is with us then we start again."

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