Gareth Southgate has been backed to continue as England manager by Declan Rice and Harry Maguire as the squad attempted to look forward after the 2-1 World Cup quarter-final defeat against France.
The feeling in the dressing room was that England were the better team and deserved to progress to a semi-final against Morocco but that the key moments went against them – most obviously Harry Kane’s missed penalty in the 84th minute for 2-2.
Southgate’s future is unclear after a little over six years in the job, despite him being under contract until December 2024. He intends to take stock over the coming days before deciding on whether to continue.
“I hope he stays,” Rice said. “Obviously, I don’t know. There’s a lot of talk around that. He’s been brilliant for us. There’s a lot of criticism that’s not deserved. He’s taken us so, so far, further than what people can expect.
“He got everything spot on again [against France]. It’s not on him at all. We played the right way. I really hope he stays because the core group that we’ve got and what he’s made for us – it’s so special to be a part of. I love playing under him and I love playing for England.”
The Football Association remains firmly behind Southgate. The chief executive, Mark Bullingham, released a statement on Sunday morning, praising Southgate and his assistant, Steve Holland, for preparing the team “exceptionally well throughout the tournament”. Bullingham made the point that it was a young side, suggesting that the future was bright.
“We are incredibly proud of Gareth, the players, the coaches and the support team and appreciate all the hard work they put in,” Bullingham said.
Maguire warmed to the theme. The central defender has always felt the support of Southgate, particularly over the past 18 months or so when he has struggled for form.
“Gareth has been amazing with myself,” Maguire said. “Amazing with every player. I’m sure if you asked every player … they wouldn’t be able to speak highly enough of him. His man-management. The way that this team has been built and developed over a period of time. He handles everything really well and tactically he gets all the big decisions right. He has proven that again in this tournament.”
Rice said: “I think sometimes the negativity surrounding us will go away once we have won something again … there will always be that pressure on us. But I feel like it’s starting to sway that way; we’re getting back to a level where people are believing in us and the country is backing us.”
Maguire described a desolate dressing‑room scene after the game, heavy on introspection. “It was pretty quiet,” he said. “A lot of lads sat there, reflecting, disappointed. Gareth said a few words, Steve Holland said a few words and that was it, really. Gareth mentioned how proud he was of us.
“It’s the most disappointed I’ve been and it’s because we believed we would win the tournament. It’s the first tournament I’ve come to where going through and losing in a semi-final or a final would not have been good enough for us.
“It’s good for the long term that the mentality has changed in the group. This squad is really talented and there will be other opportunities for them and for us.”
Rice said England had “dominated the game”, restricting France to a few clear chances. “In my opinion, the better team lost and that shows how far we have come,” he said.
Maguire said: “We created the most chances, we had more pressure, we dominated the ball. It’s about big moments at big times. We didn’t take ours, they took theirs. They are the world champions for a reason. And the reason is that they are clinical, they are ruthless, they’ve got experience.
“I know we’ve lost but it’s probably the best performance we’ve had against a big team. I feel like France will go on to lift the cup. And, if we are being totally honest, we were a lot better than them in a lot of areas. The one thing I’d say about this group of lads, which has been proven again, is that we belong on this stage now.”