England coach Gareth Southgate cut a disconsolate figure after his side lost to France in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday but said he would not make any decision about his future in the heat of the moment.
With England skipper Harry Kane missing a late penalty that would have brought Southgate’s side level with the 2018 champions at Al Bayt Stadium, France held on for a 2-1 victory to set up a semi-final showdown with Morocco.
“Whenever I finish these tournaments, you need time to make the correct decision. Emotionally, you’re going through many different feelings,” Southgate told reporters. “The energy that it takes in these tournaments is enormous. I want to take the right decision, whatever that is, for the team.”
There had been similar questions around Southgate’s future in the aftermath of England’s loss in the Euro 2020 final last year but, in November, he signed a contract extension until December 2024. If he honours the deal, it would see him take charge of England for Euro 2024, his fourth major tournament as England boss.
Under Southgate, who took charge in 2016, England have turned nearly two decades of chronic underperformance on its head. The Three Lions reached the World Cup semi-final in 2018, the Euro 2020 final and the quarterfinal of the 2022 World Cup under his stewardship.
And while the losses last year and now in Qatar are bound to raise questions over England’s ability to go all the way at marquee football events, the team has shown rare success in high-pressure games under their current coach. Between 1968 and 2016, England won just six knockout games at major tournaments. They’ve won as many under Southgate.
Southgate is also credited by many for his role in transforming the image of the England men’s national team. Public support for the team hasn’t been this high in decades and Southgate has put together a young squad brimming with talent who are inherently likeable. It is not a quantifiable metric but in a nation as passionate about its football as England, it is one that can be harder to accomplish than on-field results.
On Saturday, England by many measures played better as they went toe-to-toe against the defending champions.
“They know how close they’ve come, they know they pushed a top nation all the way, they had more possession, more attempts on goal, I’m very proud of how they’ve been – not only tonight but whole tournament,” Southgate said.
He refused to dwell on Kane’s missed penalty in the 84th minute.
“We’ve had consistent performances over three tournaments. Tonight is the best we’ve played against a major nation since I’ve been in charge, but we have fallen short. In the end, the scoreline is what matters.”
Yet the scoreline can be complicated: Southgate’s shows that England are out of the World Cup – and that he is the most successful coach they’ve had in decades.
Al Jazeera and news agencies