A dejected Gareth Southgate marches off the pitch as Hugo Lloris and Didier Deschamps embrace in celebration. The first thing to say is that Gareth Southgate has not outstayed his welcome. This honourable, dignified, intelligent coach is not to blame for England’s latest heartbreaking World Cup defeat . There can no be recriminations, no anger, no calls for root-and-branch reform; all there is, in the cold light of day, is the bitterness of knowing that England went toe to toe with the world champions, used the right tactics and came up short only because Harry Kane’s nerve betrayed him at the worst possible moment.
It hurts. “Maybe it was because England were very good,” Didier Deschamps said when he was asked why France spent so much of the game on the back foot. The France coach was under no illusions. Deschamps knew how close England had run the defending champions. Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham were irrepressible in attack, Declan Rice outstanding in midfield, Kyle Walker tireless against Kylian Mbappé. This was different from the typical England exit, a world apart from the defeats by Croatia in 2018 and Italy in the Euro 2020 final , and only the most blinkered of Southgate’s critics could possibly try to take this performance apart.
But it is not easy to be rational after watching England’s hopes of winning the World Cup sail away when Kane’s second penalty flew over the crossbar. Later, when Southgate appeared for his post‑match performance, he looked and sounded […]
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