England looks to future after latest World Cup heartbreak
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was a new twist on an old story for England.
Harry Kane’s late penalty flew high over the bar at Al Bayt Stadium Saturday, effectively sealing the national team’s World Cup fate.
France held out for a 2-1 win that sent the defending champions back to the semifinals and England home.
Penalties have cost the Three Lions time and again at major tournaments — they have lost shootouts on seven occasions at World Cups and European Championships since 1990.
It didn’t come down to that against France, but Kane still faced a test of nerve from the spot when standing over the ball in the 84th minute.
The England captain had already scored one penalty to tie Aurelien Tchouameni’s opening goal, but couldn’t repeat that act after Olivier Giroud put France back in front with what turned out to be the winner.
England’s wait for a first trophy since its one and only World Cup win in 1966 goes on.
EXPECTATION VS PERFORMANCE
A potential quarterfinal match with France always stood out as the moment England’s World Cup hopes could end. And that’s how it turned out. But that doesn’t tell the whole story of a game in which England dominated possession and chances against one of the tournament favorites. If Kane had converted his second penalty, it could have been a different story. It was a performance that exceeded expectations, even if it ended in defeat, and provides encouragement for English fans. England was also the leading scorer in the tournament with 13 goals, which points to a more attacking style than in past years. But after reaching the semifinals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final, which England lost on penalties to Italy, a quarterfinals exit feels premature.
Coach Gareth Southgate is considering his future after three major tournaments without a trophy and will be the biggest departure if he decides to walk away from a contract that still has two years to run. He has transformed England’s fortunes since taking charge in 2016 and would leave big shoes to fill in terms of the connection he has built between the team and the nation. On the field, time is still on England’s side. Kane, at 29, should have another World Cup in him, while players such as Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Declan Rice are still to reach their peak. Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Kieran Trippier, all 32, could be among the ones who start to make way for a new generation.
Bellingham looks like the future after his dominant performances in central midfield. At just 19, he has already emerged as a leader, while Saka, Foden and Rice will also be key to England’s future. Chelsea right back Reece James is one of the country’s most exciting young talents and only missed out on Qatar because of injury. Winger Jadon Sancho will also hope to work his way back into the picture by rediscovering his form with Manchester United. The big challenge for Southgate — or whoever is in charge — is to find a natural successor to Kane, even if England’s co-leading scorer isn’t ready to step aside just yet.
Euro 2024 is the next target and the majority of this squad could be back again for that tournament. Qualifying starts in March, with England taking on Italy in a repeat of last year’s final. Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta are the other teams drawn in Group C. Eyes will be firmly fixed on the tournament in Germany, when England will once again be among the favorites to finally end its wait for a major trophy.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports