FIFA World Cup: England out in quarters, but Southgate should stay to guide young lions (analysis)

Another England World Cup dream dies in the quarterfinals meaning they carry on the ‘tradition’ of never making it past the last-eight outside of Europe.

England have now fallen in the quarterfinals seven times (more than any other country) with Qatar 2022 joining Germany 2006, South Korea and Japan 2002, Mexico 1986, Spain 1982 (which had a different competition format), Mexico 1970 and Chile 1962.

What makes this year’s exit tough to take for England fans is that it came in what was arguably the best match of the tournament to date. A match between two top sides, after a performance that probably deserved better and after seeing captain and striker, Harry Kane fire a penalty, that would have leveled the score at 2-2, high into the night sky of the Al Bayt Stadium.

Such an uncharacteristic miss for the player who 30 minutes earlier had equaled Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 goals in an England shirt.

“As the captain and the one who missed the penalty, I take responsibility for that. It will be something I have to live with and take on the chin,” said Kane after the match, showing why he is such as respected leader.

England’s other leader, coach Gareth Southgate was non-committal about his future when asked after the final whistle.

“After every tournament, we’ve reviewed and reflected. We need a little bit of time to make sure that everyone makes the right decisions,” he said when asked if he would see out his contract, which runs until after the European Championships.

It’s easy to see why Southgate might want to step down: six years is a long time to be in the England job, in the public eye and the focus of criticism when things go wrong. Being an England coach is a tough job, but Southgate has always handled himself with humility and dignity. Indeed he and his players have at times seemed like a beacon of calm and hope in the past difficult years, showing unity and taking a stand on social issues that are to be admired, reports Xinhua.

The coach deserves praise for bringing together an impressive group of young players and forming them into a compact and united group. Players such as Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice should form part of the England team for years to come and Southgate’s steady hand on the helm should help them continue to progress.

Others such as Kane, Luke Shaw and John Stones will all be around for the next European Championships and there is no reason to think that the blend of experience and youth can’t continue to improve.

Usually, when England go out of a major tournament, the reaction is anger at the coach and the players. In this case, most recognise how well they played. The only frustration is that they played a side as good as France so early in the tournament, because otherwise, they could have gone all the way to the final and perhaps even lifted the trophy.

For that reason alone, most will hope that Southgate decides to stay.

20221211-172003

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