England’s positive future after Qatar exit

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It was a new twist on an old story for England.

Captain Harry Kane’s late penalty flew high over the bar at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday, effectively sealing his team’s World Cup fate.

France held out for a 2-1 win that sent the defending champions back to the semi-finals and England home.

Penalties have cost the Three Lions time and again at major tournaments — they have lost shootouts on seven occasions at World Cups and European Championships since 1990.

It didn’t come down to that against France, but Kane still faced a test of nerve from the spot when standing over the ball in the 84th minute.

The England captain had already scored one penalty to tie Aurelien Tchouameni’s opening goal, but couldn’t repeat that act after Olivier Giroud put France back in front with what turned out to be the winner.

So England’s wait for a first trophy since their one and only World Cup win in 1966 goes on.


Defeat doesn’t tell the whole story of a game in which England dominated possession and chances against one of the tournament favourites.

It was a performance that exceeded expectations, even if it ended in defeat, and provides encouragement for English fans.

England were also the leading scorers in the tournament with 13 goals, pointing to a more attacking style than in past years.

But after reaching the semi-finals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final, which England lost on penalties to Italy, a quarter-final exit felt premature.


Coach Gareth Southgate is considering his future after three major tournaments without a trophy and will be the biggest departure if he decides to walk away from a contract that still has two years to run.

He has transformed England’s fortunes since taking charge in 2016 and would leave big shoes to fill in terms of the connection he has built between the team and the nation.

On the field, time is still on England’s side. Kane, at 29, should have another World Cup in him, while players such as Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Declan Rice are still to reach their peak.

Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Kieran Trippier, all 32, could be among the ones who start to make way for a new generation.


Bellingham looks like the future after his dominant performances in central midfield. At just 19, he has already emerged as a leader, while Saka, Foden and Rice will also be key to England’s future.

The big challenge for Southgate — or whoever is in charge — is to find a natural successor to Kane, even if England’s co-leading scorer isn’t ready to step aside just yet.


Euro 2024 in Germany is the next target and the majority of this squad could be back again for that tournament. Qualifying starts in March, with England taking on Italy in a repeat of last year’s final. Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta are the other teams drawn in group C.

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