A week has now passed since England’s exit from the FIFA World Cup and for yet another World Cup, the Three Lions were unable to come home with the trophy. It has been a recurring theme since the World Cup triumph in 1966, however, there have been signs in the last few years of progression and finally ending those 56 years of hurt.
Gareth Southgate has confirmed that he has decided to stay on as England manager and lead the UEFA Euro 2024 campaign in Germany. Southgate admitted, following the defeat to France in the quarter-final, he would need to take some time to decide if he was going to carry on in his role. However, he has opted to remain in charge but was it the right decision?
The former Crystal Palace captain became the manager of the U21’s side in 2013 and he spent three years with England’s young guns. Roy Hodgson left after the embarrassment of UEFA Euro 2016 where a defeat to Iceland spelled the end for Hodgson’s time as England manager. He was replaced by Sam Allardyce who only managed one game in charge after he left after the ‘English football scandal.’
Southgate took interim charge of the senior side and in four games in this role, he went unbeaten with two wins and two draws in preparation for the 2018 World Cup. Soon after, the FA appointed Southgate as the permanent England manager on a four-year contract. Following a turbulent few years with the disappointment of the World Cup in Brazil and the chaos surrounding Allardyce, Southgate showed the FA were trying to build something – not just a short-term fix.
In the group stages of the 2018 World Cup, the Three Lions qualified for the knockout stages after wins against Tunisia and Panama and they finished second after a defeat to Belgium in their final game. In the round of 16, England won their first-ever penalty shootout in a World Cup against Columbia, and a 2-0 victory over Sweden followed to secure a place in the semi-finals. However, Croatia beat England to face France in the final – a real hammer blow after such a fantastic tournament.
Then, the delayed 2020 Euros was also a success for the Three Lions. They kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia, before a draw against Scotland and a win over the Czech Republic to secure a place in the knockout stages. England beat Germany and then beat Ukraine and Denmark – another win would have written history. Despite an early Luke Shaw goal in the final against Italy, gli Azzurri overcame Southgate’s side on penalties to ensure England didn’t win a major tournament on home soil.
In the summer, the Three Lions had an extremely disappointing Nations League campaign where two defeats to Hungary and two disappointing draws against Germany and Italy put Southgate under a lot of pressure. Following those poor results, the mood around England was quite pessimistic heading into the World Cup and many had doubts on whether Southgate was the right person for the job.
Those doubts were quickly washed away as the Three Lions beat Iran and Wales convincingly to qualify for the round of 16, as well as a 0-0 draw against the USA. Senegal was next for England and they dominated to beat their African opponents 3-0, however, a vast challenge awaited with France up next in the quarter-finals.
The pre-match build-up was centred around Kylian Mbappé and how England were going to try and stop the PSG forward. In the game, Mbappé was kept quiet by Kyle Walker but France still prevailed courtesy of two goals from Aurélien Tchouaméni and Olivier Giroud. Harry Kane was unable to equalise from his second penalty which meant England would be on their way home.
Many questions were asked about Southgate and his tactical choices during that game. It has been a common theme that he has got the big decisions wrong in the big games – the Euro 2020 final and the defeat to France are just two examples of that. Another regret was that it felt like a missed opportunity to finally reach the latter stages of the tournament, however, it wasn’t meant to be.
Ever since Southgate walked through the doors at St. George’s Park, he has been a breath of fresh air and he has shown that England can be competitive on the world’s biggest stage. The Three Lions now have an excellent squad filled with exciting young players and a manager who is respected by all of the players.
The FA made the right decision by keeping Southgate as England manager. He has brought back the feel-good factor about the team and he has given the English fans hope for success in the future. Despite not getting any silverware during his time as manager so far, a large portion of the current squad will be entering their prime at the next World Cup – maybe it isn’t all doom and gloom.