The future is bright for England – Qatar 2022 is a “mouthwatering prospect”

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No major trophy, no recriminations, no blame, no regrets.

As brave men wept, Gareth Southgate stood tall and proud and that is just as it should have been.

Should Jack Grealish have been on earlier? Possibly. Should Southgate have made a couple more changes before the very last moments of extra-time? It might have worked.

But you are into the realms of guesswork, there.

Southgate has nothing to reproach himself for. There is probably little, if anything, he would do differently.

Gareth Southgate consoled his England team after their devastating penalty defeat
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)

In fact, he probably would still have brought on Marcus Rashford and Jason Sancho to take a couple of penalties.

He probably would have used Bukayo Saka for penalty number five.

That all three missed was just freakish.

The public inquiry into a 19-year-old taking a decisive spot-kick in the final of a major tournament – England’s first in over half a century – will go on for some time.

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But clearly, that line-up would have been decided prior to the game.

But when that inquiry has come to a conclusion and the pain of defeat has lessened, Southgate can reflect on how, for a decent spell of this match, he got the better of his opposite number and England had a degree of control against what was, frankly, a technically superior team.

Technically superior by a little distance.

Look, let’s be honest, the marginally better team won this football match.

For Southgate, there was no shame in losing.

Southgate can leave Euro 2020 with his head held high

Just as there was, quite obviously, no shame in England’s tournament.

And whatever you made of his approach to this predictably tense final, no-one could deny Southgate has somehow managed to get the best out of every single player under his care for the past six weeks.

There have not been many tournaments in which every single member of an England football squad has enhanced their reputations – on and off the field.

And that remains the case after this agonising loss.

No wonder Southgate went around and consoled each and every member of his squad.

England's Euro 2020 heroes can now look towards the Qatar World Cup in 2022

To a man, all 26 players, including those who knew they were, realistically, destined for over a month of training, riding inflatable unicorns and little else, bought into Southgate.

There were no stories of disharmony or splits in the camp because, well, there was no disharmony, there were no splits in the camp.

And do not forget, these are characters who, pretty much to a man, are automatic choices for their club teams. Obviously.

At every tournament, we always hear about how there is an incredible spirit within the ranks but, this time, it was true. It was indisputable.

And that is why Qatar 2022 – from a footballing point of view, at least – is already a mouthwatering prospect.

That is, of course, when the bitter taste of a shootout defeat has gone away.

This is a collection of players that has a lot more evolving to do.

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Despite the presence of some old heads out there, there were no swan songs.

Kyle Walker is showing no signs of slowing down and Kieran Trippier remains a favourite.

No wonder. Before Southgate had time to fully button up his jacket, his decision to go with Trippier and Shaw in wing-back areas had been justified.

No wonder he allowed himself a stern look of satisfaction when Shaw half-volleyed the opener home.

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There was, of course, still an awfully long way to go and from then on, it was about his players managing the game for him, sticking to the manager’s system.

And for more than an hour, they did exactly that, only to be undone by a set-piece.

Defeat will hurt, unimaginably.

But Southgate did very little wrong here and had done very little wrong for the entire tournament.

That is why he could walk tall and proud out of Wembley.

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