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          Euro finalists will turn focus to Qatar 2022

          Can Three Lions evolve further under Southgate?

          2021/07/21 16:14
          Nathan John
          E0

          It all started on 27 September 2016. Former England player and then Under-21s head coach Gareth Southgate was appointed as the Three Lions' first team coach following the controversial dismissal of Sam Allardyce amid allegations of corruption.

          Southgate was initially tasked with overseeing four games, the first of which resulted in a 2-0 victory over Malta.

          There was one more win in this period, in the form of a 3-0 battering over Scotland, but a disappointing 0-0 draw to Slovenia and the surrender of a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw to Spain curbed enthusiasm.

          There were some promising signs throughout this run, but an aura of inconsistency and vulnerability pervaded fan opinion regarding Southgate’s future.

          It then fell upon the FA to decide whether Southgate was the right man to take the job on a full-time basis.

          Southgate was offered the job and it's fair to say that getting the former Middlesbrough manager to pen a four-year contract was a very wise move.

          ©Getty /

          Qualification for the World Cup in Russia was secured following a 1-0 win over Slovenia in October 2017, which capped off an impressive qualifying campaign for an England side who finished top of their group.

          The Three Lions would go on to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1966, but their rollercoaster ride to the last four was eventually derailed by defeat to Croatia; England then losing to Belgium in the third-place play-off.

          The campaign in Russia was viewed as a major success with many applauding Southgate for his rejuvenation of a nation that had been humbled by last 16 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016. The 'Gileted One' had injected a spring into England's step and there was a newfound connection between his team, the fans and the media. There was a feel-good factor. 

          The Three Lions campaign to qualify for Euro 2020 was much the same as it was for 2018, as once again England topped their group comfortably. The difference now was expectation; with many feeling the team was finally good enough to mount a serious challenge at the sharp end of the competition, the delay of the tournament to 2021 allowing a relatively young squad an extra year to grow and mature.

          As we know, England made it agonisingly close to lifting their first piece of silverware in 55 years, but fell just short against Italy courtesy of penalty shoot-out defeat at Wembley.

          While there is no shame in losing to the four-time finalists of the Euros and arguably the best side in the tournament, there still remains a huge feeling of disappointment with many feeling this was a missed opportunity.

          The question now is: what lies ahead for England and Gareth Southgate?

          Unquestionably, a plethora of talent lies at the disposal of the England boss: Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell both won the Champions League last season with Chelsea, while their vanquished foes in Porto, Raheem Sterling, Jonh Stones, Kyle Walker and Phil Foden all won the Premier League at Manchester City.

          Harry Kane's still scoring, Jordan Pickford enjoyed a fabulous Euros and the likes of Jack Grealish, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips hopefully all have their best days ahead at club and international level. 

          The future looks very rosy, but one of Southgate's strong suits thus far has been an ability to plan ahead and learn from the setbacks and pitfalls that are an inevitable part of managing England.

          ©Getty /

          Southgate was quick to take full responsibility for the Euro final loss stating, that he had “mismanaged the latter stages of the game”. This was refreshing to see, as was his support for the unsuccessful penalty takers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

          With another year under their belts and an extra season to mature, many believe this England side will peak in Qatar at the end of next year.

          It's impossible to look that far ahead, but it will be fascinating to see the tweaks Southgate makes to tactics and personnel, as he sifts through the debris of England's Euro disappointment and plots an assault on the biggest prize of them all.  

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