France def England, Gareth Southgate, will he stay, future, UK view, reaction, analysis, how long since England last won World Cup, latest, updates

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The painful, torturous, agonising 56-year wait for a World Cup continues as England lost 2-1 to defending champions France.

It was a defeat in inexplicably heartbreaking circumstances.

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Many considered the Three Lions the better side over the 90 minutes in just about every statistic except for the one that matters most.

England captain Harry Kane missed a penalty in the 84th minute that would have almost certainly sent the contest into extra time, barring any late chaos — although at this iteration of the World Cup, that’s become almost a forgone conclusion.

The quarter final exit was also the earliest an England side managed by Gareth Southgate had exited a major tournament, given their semi-final run in the 2018 World Cup and a silver medal at Euro 2020.

But to go so close, against the reigning champs no less, stings badly.

Perhaps more badly than any recent England defeat.

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“Maybe it feels worse every time and we make ourselves forget,” The Mail on Sunday’s Oliver Holt wrote.

“But England played their hearts out at Al Bayt Stadium on the edge of the Arabian Desert and outshone the world champions and tournament favourites in this quarter-final loss.

“France are a wonderful, cultured team but England were better than them for long periods of the match.

“They deserved more than another episode of heartbreak.”

For The Athletic’s Oliver Kay, the devastation is compounded by the fact it’s yet another occasion when the Three Lions have squared up against a rival of equal or better standing and fallen frustratingly short.

“We had wondered whether England might fall short again when they ran into a higher class of opponent,” Kay wrote.

“That was always the big question about Southgate and his team, but it is hard in the immediate aftermath to think what they could and should have done differently.

“They played well on the night — not brilliantly, but well.

“They were so near, yet ultimately so far.”

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The Guardian’s David Hytner described it as yet another chapter in England’s lengthy “bitter hard luck story.”

“This was supposed to be the night when everything came together against world champion opposition, mentality aligning with quality, the brutal lessons of the recent past helping England to a famous victory.”

It was almost an inch-perfect game plan concocted by Southgate.

Such had been French superstar Kylian Mbappe’s dominance in Qatar, there were fears as to how Southgate would stifle the 23-year-old.

Some thought he might have gone with a back three, but he went with an unchanged 4-3-3 formation and team that beat Senegal 3-0 as Kyle Walker was entrusted with shackling the Paris Saint-Germain flyer.

For pretty much the entirety of the game, Walker did his job perfectly.

Well, almost.

The Manchester City defender was caught high up the field in the 16th minute when Jordan Henderson lost possession and the French broke down Walker’s side via Mbappe, with the move culminating in Aurelien Tchouameni’s 108km/h thunderbolt to open the scoring.

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Despite doing all he could do to prepare his team, Southgate wasn’t the one on the pitch making those decisions or nipping out crosses.

A few decisions go in England’s favour and perhaps things could have been different.

When asked if he will stay on as boss in a post-match interview, Southgate insisted he needs time “to make correct decisions”.

And although it’s another major tournament without a trophy in tow, Holt and The Independent’s Mark Critchley believe the Football Association (FA) know there’s only one decision to make.

“The critics will come for Gareth Southgate of course and try to find a way of blaming him but the reality is that whether France had a better system or better tactics, this match came down to one team that took its chances and another team whose captain and best player missed a penalty at a critical moment,” Holt wrote.

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“If Southgate wants to continue until the end of his contract after Euro 2024, that should be a no-brainer for the FA. He should be welcomed with open arms.

“He has got everything right during this World Cup and confounded his critics at every turn.

“This one wasn’t on him.”

Crithcley added: “There will inevitably be questions of Southgate and of what next.

“There always has been, even after unquestionably successful tournaments, and this World Cup campaign admittedly falls short of that mark.

“But those questions really only have one answer.

“The other twelve men to succeed Sir Alf Ramsey since 1966 managed six wins in tournament knockout games between them.

“Southgate equalled that record alone. That should be enough to answer the most incessant and unreasonable critics.”

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