IAN LADYMAN: Gareth Southgate must now deliver on promise of Qatar

IAN LADYMAN: Gareth Southgate is in a position of power despite England’s World Cup quarter-final exit… after being tactically braver in Qatar, he must continue to release the handbrake to unlock his team’s attacking potential

  • England’s boss has been backed and he now must deliver on promise of Qatar
  • The FA confirmed on Sunday that Gareth Southgate would remain in charge 
  • There had been speculation since England’s exit over his immediate future
  • Lack of authentic supporters at the Qatar World Cup has been a sticking point 
  • Pep Guardiola claiming he doesn’t have players for Liverpool is nonsense  
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

It is hard to remember the last time an England manager exited a major tournament at the quarter-final stage amid a clamour for him to stay.

Sven Goran Eriksson’s England lost to Brazil in the last eight of the 2002 World Cup and to Portugal on penalties in Germany four years later. Roy Hodgson’s team went out at the same stage of Euro 2012 to Italy.

There was nothing particularly heroic about any of that. They were England teams that were largely thought to have under-achieved.

Gareth Southgate has been backed – he must be brave and bold moving forward with England

Here we are at Christmas 2022, however, and things are different. Gareth Southgate’s decision to stay as England manager for the next 18 months, communicated first through a well-sourced article in the Sunday Times and then formally by the FA on Sunday morning, has widely been viewed as a positive thing. Some naysayers remain. To them, Southgate will always be to blame for England’s failure to win two World Cups and one European Championship. It’s strange how some people view football.

On the whole, though, Southgate’s decision not only gets the FA out of a hole — had he quit they did not have a particularly advanced succession plan to turn to — but will also serve to reinvigorate a squad of players that has reason to be optimistic heading into Euro 2024 in Germany.

Southgate, unusually for a manager who has not won anything, exited this World Cup in a position of power. Such was the clamour for him to continue that The Sun ran a front page last week begging him to do so.

The reason why people are now behind Southgate’s vision is because they saw a positive brand of football being exhibited in Qatar

Southgate is not a man who plays games. He thought about quitting after this World Cup and then changed his mind. It’s as simple as that.

This is a decision made for the right reasons. What it will do, however, is increase the pressure even more as he begins to look towards Germany.

The reason there has been such a groundswell of support is not because of results — England won the games they were expected to in Qatar and then lost the first time the balance tilted — but because of the way they played.

England have an exciting crop of young players that could be harnessed to go far in major tournaments

By being a little braver in the Middle East, by ditching his three-man central defensive line and playing an extra attacking player, Southgate unlocked something in this team and maybe himself that we have not seen before.

We are told Southgate’s natural instincts as a coach are attacking. He was like that when he played for England, apparently.

Well now that he has released the handbrake a little, it will feel like a step backwards if England do not continue in this vein.

England play away in Italy in March. It will be fascinating to see how that goes.

Lack of authentic supporters an unforgettable aspect of Qatar World Cup

They were still arriving from Argentina with their overnight bags on Sunday. Pouring off planes and out of taxis at the Souq Waqif. Some with tickets for the final but most without.

They have been some sight in Qatar, the Argentina fans. So too have those from Morocco. They have brought colour and noise and a sense of authenticity to the games.

But they have been so noticeable simply because they have been the exception to a pretty dispiriting rule.

Argentina and Morocco supporters aside this has – largely – been a World Cup with few authentic supporters 

This has been a decent World Cup in some ways but it has not been one that has been attended in any significant number by what we may call real football fans.

Teams such as Netherlands, France, Denmark and England, for example, can normally be relied upon to bring thousands of supporters to a tournament.

But for whatever reason, that didn’t happen here and immediately blows a hole through Gianni Infantino’s claim that this has been ‘the best World Cup’.

Football is for supporters and, despite the fact the FIFA president does not understand that, this has been a World Cup that proved too inaccessible, too expensive or simply too unattractive for most of them.

It is a part of this month in Doha that I will not forget.

Of course Manchester City have enough players 

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City don’t have enough players for this week’s Carabao Cup match against Liverpool.

Why on earth not?

Kevin de Bruyne left this World Cup a fortnight ago along with Ilkay Gundogan and Manuel Akanji. John Stones, Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker have been home a week already as have Nathan Ake, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Ederson, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri.

In fact the only player remaining to the end in Qatar was Julian Alvarez and he, as we know, does not often get into Guardiola’s team.

Why on earth do Manchester City not have enough players for their Carabao Cup tie this week?

Kane just made a mistake 

And before it starts, don’t even think about it. It wasn’t Harry Kane’s fault. He just made a mistake. 

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