A World Cup of missed opportunities for England, Southgate and Kane

Three Lions boss Southgate will take time to consider his future after defeat to France

Gareth Southgate consoled Harry Kane after his penalty miss
Harry Kane sends his penalty over the bar against France
(Image credit: Markus Gilliar/GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

It was another night of World Cup heartbreak for England as they were beaten 2-1 by holders France. Harry Kane equalled Wayne Rooney’s England’s scoring record with the 53rd goal for his country, but a late penalty miss proved decisive in the quarter-final at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

Aurelien Tchouameni had given the reigning champions the lead with a superbly struck effort from outside the box on 17 minutes, but captain Kane equalised with a penalty nine minutes into the second-half. Olivier Giroud’s header then put Les Bleus back into the lead on 78 minutes and it proved to be the winning goal. Kane had a late chance to score a second equaliser from the spot, but he blazed his kick high over the bar.

The defeat was England’s seventh in ten World Cup quarter-finals, said Mitch Phillips on Reuters. And it marked another “four years of hurt” since their solitary triumph in 1966.

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Olivier Giroud scored France’s winning goal against England

Olivier Giroud headed France’s winning goal against England
(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Regrets and a cruel outcome

Gareth Southgate and his Three Lions players “nursed a familiar sense of missed opportunity” as an elusive major tournament triumph “escaped them once more”, said Phil McNulty on BBC Sport. A “brutal outcome”, England’s display against France “deserved at least to drag the game into extra time”.

As England found a way in Al Khor “to go out of the World Cup on penalties”, it was a “cruel” ending for Kane, said Barney Ronay in The Guardian. “Let’s not dress it up”, the penalty miss will “come to haunt” the skipper because he “loves this stuff, knows his strengths, his role, and because he feels it so deeply with England”. Kane’s penalty will now “stay up there, lost in the thin desert air” and “merge and mingle” with the other spot kicks that “never fell back to earth”.

The “biggest regret” for England, and the difference this time around, is that the tournament was “there for the taking”, said Jamie Carragher in The Telegraph. The “same old outcome” does not mean we are watching the “same old England” and “seeing the same old story”. If England had beaten France, “I would genuinely have believed England were about to win the World Cup”.

Gareth Southgate consoled Harry Kane after his penalty miss

Gareth Southgate consoled Harry Kane after his penalty miss
(Image credit: Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images/Getty Images)

What next for Southgate?

England boss Southgate, who led his team to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and the final of the Euros last summer, will “review and reflect” on his side’s defeat before making a decision on his future.

“Whenever I’ve finished these tournaments I’ve needed time to make correct decisions because emotionally you go through so many different feelings and the energy that it takes through these tournaments is enormous,” he said. “So I want to make the right decision, whenever that is, for the team, for England, for the FA.”

Appointed in October 2016, Southgate’s current contract runs until December 2024. He admitted that he had found “large parts” of the last 18 months “difficult” and that he was “conflicted” about his future in the role. “I don’t want to be four, five months down the line thinking I’ve made the wrong call,” said the 52-year-old. “It’s too important for everybody to get that wrong.”

Didier Deschamps’s French side are now on course to retain the trophy they won in Russia four years ago. Describing the quarter-final victory over England as “fabulous”, the French head coach admitted that his team “got a bit lucky”, but praised his players for keeping their lead with “our hearts and our guts”.

With the World Cup semi-final line-up now complete in Qatar, Argentina will face Croatia on Tuesday and France play Morocco on Wednesday.

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Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.