Gareth Southgate should resign as England manager

Football is harsh, but Gareth Southgate understood it before anybody else. Nobody expected Harry Kane to blaze over the bar in the dazzling heat of the desert. The World Cup has always been an illusion.

It didn’t seem imaginable that England’s destiny would be decided by a penalty with six minutes left, losing 2-1 to the world champions, given the type of software error from Theo Hernandez that we see so seldom from Didier Deschamps usually clockwork France team.

It was the ultimate present. However, it was no less than England deserved considering the persistent pressure they maintained throughout the game, even if Wilton Sampaio’s lousy refereeing sometimes diluted it.

The French quality was evident. Antoine Griezmann with a hardly credible heat-seeking cross against Olivier Giroud’s forehead, Aurelien Tchouameni with an unbelievably low drive to grab the breath away like chilly air.

Both goals were gut punches from Les Bleus, but not enough to truly take the stuffing out of an England squad fighting valiantly in the face of the proverbial big moments ignoring them at the door.

Each time they were told, ‘not today, fellas,’ they pushed their way back through the crowd with a new sweater and a renewed feeling of self, desire, and belonging on that pulsing, spot-lit stage.

England did not go to extra time due to their all-time best scorer and an 84 percent career penalty taker missing from 12 yards.

Richard Keys, a guy who works only in retrospect, believes it should have gone to someone else. Presumably, he considers his remarks after Japan’s penalty shootout loss to Croatia.

“I’d move from the halfway line, chest out, signaling to the keeper that I would receive a complimentary shoot from 12 yards. I wouldn’t be afraid; instead, I’d be excited, “He told Andy Gray, Ruud Gullit, and Gary Neville with the self-awareness of a newborn infant and the object permanence of a newborn baby.

Southgate is not to responsible for Kane taking the penalty and missing. There can be no logical criticism of his starting lineup or early tactical approach, both of which were warranted and looked to neutralize France until they didn’t.

England had more possession, precise passes, shots on target, and corners and collected 2.41 xG to their opponent’s meager 1.01.

It shouldn’t matter if 1.58 of the total came from the penalty spot. Tchouameni’s opening, for example, was a 0.03 xG shot, about as probable as Keys uttering something self-deprecating but not impossible.

Southgate’s job is in jeopardy after England’s loss. After losing to Croatia in the semi-finals of the same competition four years ago and to Italy in the Euro final last year, he had faced a robust international squad in the knockout stages of a significant event. It still wasn’t enough.

This has been the stick to beat him: England has encountered substantially lesser competition throughout their campaigns in recent championships and has been little more than a flat-track bully. When urged to pick on someone his size, Southgate could only give up his lunch money and apologize.

Finally, he achieved it against France. Only the switch of Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling for Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish left a nasty taste in the mouth. Aside from that choice, it isn’t easy to see what more Southgate could have done to push his way into the semi-finals.

And now he may abandon it all.

Whatever happens today, Gareth Southgate’s legacy as England’s manager will be excellent. A sea shift from WAGs and washouts to probable men and knockouts.

This is the first England team in a lifetime that combines its brilliance with selflessness and friendship, that is free of ego and infighting, that is filled to the brim with players who wear the jersey not to inflate their feeling of pride but to make others proud.

Nothing gold can last. If there is a moment to depart, it is now, on his terms. It will not be in shame if England falls short again in two years. A long way has been traveled. Southgate deserves to go down as England manager with his head held high. After Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello, and Roy Hodgson, he has done much better than anybody could have hoped.

He was not the FA’s first choice; instead, he was brought in to settle things down after the Sam Allardyce catastrophe. Nonetheless, he remains undoubtedly England’s best manager since Alf Ramsey. It does not deserve to turn evil at this point.

The players will want him to remain till Euro 2024. After six years, though, something more is required. Something more. There are other managers out there who are more suited to the skill pool England presently has. The platform has been rebuilt. It is now time to win anything, indeed.

Southgate got close. That’s about as near as you can go. However, England struggled against Italy at Wembley Stadium last summer. That they were bolder now and fell even shorter tells you all you need to know about knockout international football.

It’s all about taking chances, and Southgate has had him in three tournaments already.

A world-class midfield of Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, and Phil Foden for the next decade is not something to be wasted. Neither is Kane’s next two tournaments likely to be his last at the pinnacle of his abilities.

A new method and a new set of ideas are required. Players like Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson, and Raheem Sterling have all done well for their countries over the last four years, but their time is running out.

Southgate, who is fiercely devoted to his players, is not the guy to handle this change. No radical changes are needed, just enough boldness to look at the furnishings in a new light and make the necessary modifications. These tweaks elevate a very excellent squad to the next level, to a club capable of bringing football home forever.

The presence of a £100 million Pep Guardiola signing, who came in as a 98th-minute replacement, demonstrates the availability of resources. Regardless of what you think of his defense, Trent Alexander-Arnold is not a guy who should only play 35 minutes in a World Cup. Other nations are accomplishing considerably more with far less. Southgate has done his part. Any future success England has will be due partly to him and his revitalization of the national squad.

He’ll have the rest of his life to ponder what may have been, to consider if the dream was genuine. This is nothing new to him. England has just two years till they have to do it all over again.

It would be no tragedy if Southgate stayed on until 2024. However, now, still basking in the glow of public sentiment that has grown since that initial, soul-crushing disappointment on Saturday night, he should bring this remarkable journey to a close with the dignity that both he and the players deserve.

The World Cup remains an illusion, as it always has been. It’s time to search for it elsewhere.