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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
John Cross & Andy Dunn

Where did Gareth Southgate go wrong? England debate breaks out after World Cup woe

England saw another major tournament end in disappointment having had their World Cup journey ended at the quarter-final stage by France.

Goals from Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud saw the reigning champions seal progression to the semi-finals and book a date with surprise package Morocco. England captain Harry Kane will be rueing missed opportunities after he failed to convert a late penalty.

The defeat has seen Gareth Southgate's future as England boss called into question. He is under contract until the summer of 2024, with chief sports writer Andy Dunn and chief football writer John Cross debating what the Football Association should decide regarding his position - and where it went wrong against France.

ANDY DUNN - Southgate has lessons to learn

In a brief statement, Mark Bullingham, the Football Association chief executive and Gareth Southgate’s boss, summed up what seems to be a popular perception at the moment. Gareth’s great, we were a bit unlucky, fine margins and all that, the boys did well, they should be proud of the way they took part, blah, blah, blah.

For goodness sake, this was the World Cup, not school sports day. England lost to France reserves. England lost to the first serious rival they came up against. England blew it. Harsh but true.

Does that mean Southgate should go? No, absolutely not, unless he wants to, of course. He remains the best available Englishman for the job and is mightily impressive in so many facets of the role.

Gareth Southgate has enjoyed a great impact on the England team since his appointment (Getty Images)

Should Gareth Southgate stay in charge of England? Share your thoughts in the comments below

But when he looks back on the defeat to the French, he will surely learn lessons to take forward. Southgate’s initial selection was bold but he was not bold when the scores were level at one apiece.

That was the time to go for the jugular, to make a change or maybe two, to use the armoury on the bench. Instead, he reacted after losing the control of the game England had, much like Southgate did against Croatia in 2018 and Italy last year.

There was no accounting for Harry Kane’s penalty miss but why was Raheem Sterling - after missing training for most of the week - sent into the fray? The bottom line is that Southgate’s in-game management came up short. Again, harsh? Yes. But this was the World Cup, not school sports day.

JOHN CROSS - Southgate is made for the job

You only need to cast your mind back six years to understand the huge strides Gareth Southgate has made as England manager. Humiliated by Iceland at the last Euros, this was an England team which was home before the postcards when their World Cup lasted all of eight days in 2014.

Gareth Southgate has seen his future called into question following defeat to France (Getty Images)

Now, they have a manager who has changed the mood of a nation, raised expectations to a point where there is disappointment when England lose a quarter-final to the world champions. Southgate has also changed the mindset of the players to a squad which now believe it can win major trophies compared to the past when they have just turned up to tournaments to make up the numbers.

It has to be a process with all good teams to reach their potential. The same for a manager. Southgate said the other day he would have to be “stupid” not to learn from his own recent experiences. A prime example was him using the substitutes and making tactical changes in this tournament to good effect. In the one game Southgate did not seem to get it right, England lost to France.

So, a manager evolves with his team. I sincerely hope Southgate stays as England manager. He has rebuilt a nation’s footballing pride. The next time they play France in a major tournament, they will truly believe there’s nothing to fear.

Can he be more ruthless? Yes. But I also think he’s made for this job. He’s more head of state than tea cup-throwing football manager. The players are all the best players at their clubs. They respond to his leadership more than anything else.

If he was to leave, what club job would he get? I’m not sure he would get a good enough job to make the switch worthwhile. And if he left, he’d be back at the FA in two years in a technical director’s role. Guaranteed.

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