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Gareth Southgate questions whether England players ‘truly believed’ they could beat France at World Cup

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 26/01/2023 Matt Verri
southgate.jpg © The FA via Getty Images southgate.jpg

Gareth Southgate has admitted he is unsure whether England “truly believed” they were capable of beating France at the World Cup.

The Three Lions arrived in Qatar with plenty of questions after a disastrous Nations League campaign, but quickly lifted the mood with an opening 6-2 win over Iran as they found their goalscoring form.

A last-16 victory over Senegal set up a quarter-final clash with defending champions France, one that ended in familiar pain from the penalty spot.

This time it was not a shootout but instead a wild spot-kick from Harry Kane, as the England captain blazed over the bar when he had the chance to equalise late on from 12 yards.

England earned plenty of praise for their performance, even if it was another disappointing result against one of football’s heavyweights. Reflecting on that defeat, Southgate hopes any doubts the players had on the biggest stage are now gone.

“The performance against France has shown the players if they didn’t believe it before, which I still wonder whether they truly believed that before the game, but coming off the field they know that is a game they could win and should have won,” Southgate told ITV news.

The England boss took some time to consider his future after the tournament, before deciding to stay on and the intention is for him to lead the team at Euro 2024 in Germany.

Southgate has revealed it was his family who convinced him to make that decision, just a few months after he had given serious thought to stepping down ahead of the World Cup.

“[My family] left Doha saying you’ve got to give this one more go and try to get this trophy,” Southgate said.

“There was negativity about me being in charge and the last thing I wanted was for that to be the over-arching feeling going into a World Cup when you need the fans and everybody behind the team.

“You need that energy; you need that sense of togetherness. And if the debate was only going to be about finding flaws in what we were doing, in order that I go at the end, then that would have been very difficult for the team to perform at their best.”

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