England has made a lot of progress since the 2014 World Cup. In that competition, they won no games and were knocked out in the group stages. Since then, they have reached the semis in 2018 and the EURO 2020 final.
However, they have yet to pick up the ever-illusive international trophy and bow out of the latest World Cup at the quarter-final stages at the hands of France. They looked very much like Les Blues’ equal in the game, and it wouldn’t have been a shock if they won. Football is a game of inches, so how can England finally reach the top of the mountain?
Continue on their path
England can be proud of what they achieved at the 2022 World Cup. If it wasn’t for a Harry Kane missed penalty, they could have been going to the semi-finals of a World Cup for consecutive competitions. France was pushed back at times, even though they were heavily favored. If you were to check the odds to win World Cup 2022, you would see Les Blues are tipped to win outright at +110 from the remaining four teams.
Coming up against a strong French side didn’t even make Southgate adjust his plan or formation. They stuck with four at the back and again depended on Jordan Henderson in midfield. The Liverpool player had a dynamic shift and was constantly involved, helping Kyle Walker keep France’s left side very quiet. They showed they have a similar talent level to France, which shows that the development of English talent is working. Some of the team’s spine is only entering their prime, with only some senior stars possibly needing replacing coming to the next World Cup edition. However, the likes of John Stones, Luke Shaw, Jordan Pickford, and even Harry Kane should all be able to make substantial contributions in 2026 while the new generation continues to improve.
Develop another Striker
Speaking of Harry Kane, he is the oldest in that previously mentioned group. England’s skipper isn’t over 30 yet, but when the next World Cup comes around, he will be 33. Although his game isn’t heavily dependent on pace, he may have lost a yard and won’t be in his physical prime anymore. However, he could still be England’s starting striker at the next World Cup. Players like Luka Modric, Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, and Lionel Messi prove that you can get even better in your 30s.
Nevertheless, this isn’t about Kane’s ability but more about having a plan B or someone that could even pair with the skipper so he can drop deeper into midfield to create. No other striker really played at this tournament. Rashford is more of a wide forward, and Callum Wilson stayed on the bench and is often injured. If England is to go that one bit further, they may need another player who can play through the middle and put the ball in the net.
Stick with Southgate
Contrary to what the media might want you to believe, Southgate has been an excellent manager and should be allowed to continue. He has proven himself in tournament management and his style is suited to the international game. His style is similar to Didier Deschamps, which has proved capable of winning a World Cup. Sometimes after a defeat like that, it can be a natural reaction to want to change things, but giving a coach time can also pay off. Just look at Deschamps. France stuck with him after he lost the EURO 2016 final and two years later, they won the World Cup. Joachim Löw was the German coach from 2006, losing the EURO 2008 final, falling at the World Cup semis in 2010, and finally breaking through to win the World Cup in 2014. Give Southgate one more World Cup, if it doesn’t work, then it would be time for a change.
England has been waiting for an international trophy since 1966. English fans much malign the long wait, but they are making progress. You can be sure this team will be competing come EURO 2024.