Gareth Southgate reflected on England’s World Cup performance by saying his side were ‘now at the top table’ alongside the world’s heavyweights.
However, the former defender who led the Three Lions for its second World Cup campaign accepted that he “can’t escape the fact that we came up short” by losing to France in the quarter-finals on Saturday, a leg ahead of their 2018 exit .
Southgate, who took over from the England manager in 2016, has said he needs some time to consider whether he will continue to be committed to the national cause for the cycle leading up to Euro 2024 and beyond.
Gareth Southgate believes England are now ‘celebrating at the top table’ of international football
On Sunday, after a short time to reflect on the nature of the previous day’s knockout, the 52-year-old spoke about the mood in the camp.
“It’s a strange feeling,” he admitted, noting that the players were “flat” as he wrapped up Al Wakrah’s training base in England after a slightly longer four-year World Cup cycle.
“We were so close,” Southgate said. “The level of performance, I was so happy with that. There’s the disappointment that we think we could have gone ahead and done more. And yet I really have very little regret about the whole thing. Emotionally it’s a rollercoaster.’
Southgate revealed the emotional roller coaster that followed France’s elimination of England
“They know they played well,” he said of his players. “In sports it feels so binary, winning and losing. But if you coach a team and work with a team, you have to look at it differently.’
He praised the progression of the group, and as individuals, including those who have remained on the fringes of the first team.
“We now have some very young players with a lot of experience in big games already,” said the 52-year-old. ‘The core of the group can be together for a long time.’
The manager said Saturday’s game at Al Bayt Stadium went as he expected
He said the French game went as England planned it, expecting Les Bleus to wait and hit them on the counter-attack. He believes they had the balance of positioning right most of the time, but admitted, “A 30-second period can turn your life upside down.”
After trailing Aurelien Tchouameni by a goal, Southgate praised the spirit of his team’s struggle. He said: “Without a doubt we could have been overwhelmed in a game like that a few years ago. We drove that period and especially dominated the second half.’
After all the build-up to the Qatar tournament, Southgate said he felt the support on the ground.
The 52-year-old applauded the support in Qatar’s stadiums and spectators from home
Southgate said: ‘I know this was a tournament that had been put into a lot of thought beforehand. What I’m happy about is that everyone who came has had a really good experience. I hope that was the case.
“We felt great support in the stadium and we know the support at home was incredible as well. On the big stage I know how the rest of the world looks at us now.
‘In the end we fell short, I can’t avoid that, I have to accept that too. But we are now consistently feeding at the top of European and world football.
He said it is “exciting and important for England” to have their team depth for future games
“If we’re in that place with the depth of squad we have, it’s exciting and important for England. It’s a difficult time for everyone. We are really aware of that. I think the players represented them the right way, played the right way. We hope everyone enjoyed the trip.’
England’s route to Euro 2024 begins with the qualifying campaign in March, which begins with fixtures against holders Italy and then Ukraine.
The 2026 World Cup will return to its normal UK summer, held at venues in the United States, Mexico and Canada.