England’s players and staff members looked in a glum mood as they departed their hotel in Qatar on Sunday morning to fly back to the UK following their agonising 2-1 defeat to France in the World Cup on Saturday.
In a match which the Three Lions dominated large parts of, Gareth Southgate and his side were left heartbroken as Aurélien Tchouaméni and Olivier Giroud goals saw them eliminated. Harry Kane had equalised from the penalty spot in the second-half, but then missed an 84th minute spot-kick in devastating fashion as he ballooned his shot over the bar.
The team left their hotel at around 9.30am UK time, and are expected to board a flight to Birmingham shortly. The likes of Phil Foden, Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish were snapped by reporters. It is thought some of the team have elected to join up with family for a holiday or team training trips abroad before the rest of the squad depart for the UK.
Grealish tried to stay positive by giving a thumbs up as he departed, while Maguire got onto a mini bus and Foden was seen dragging his suitcase along. Meanwhile, the ever-popular Jude Bellingham signed autographs for fans outside the hotel.
Southgate and his closest advisors paid a visit to backroom staff for a final farewell, who were staying in different lodgings. There are now question marks over whether he will continue as boss of the national team.
The 52-year-old has a contract which lasts until 2024, but has previously said he would not rule out departing earlier. When asked by ITV what the future held in the immediate aftermath of the France defeat, Southgate replied: “After every tournament we’ve sat down and reviewed and reflected. So we need a bit of time to make sure everyone makes the right decisions.”
ITV pundits Gary Neville and Roy Keane made it clear that they want Southgate to stay for at least one more tournament, with the European Championships in Germany in 2024 looming on the horizon.
“I would love Gareth to stay on for two years”, Neville said. “I’d love to stay on beyond that whether it’s as a coach or whether it be a role in the FA deciding the future.
“England in the last 10 years have won youth tournaments, won the women’s tournament in the summer, we’ve got to the men’s final, we’ve got good technical players, England are in a good place – lets be clear. We’ve gone out of tournaments in a disgrace in the past thinking ‘what do we do for the future?’ We’ve got a great future and he’s a part of that.”
Keane added: “You’d fully expect Gareth to stay on for the Euros. Obviously, he’ll have an exit plan in his head. You look at the players they’ll be making the decisions over the next few months. He’s done a brilliant job but he’ll have to look at the future, the family situation, does he want to give it a couple of years? Hopefully he does.”
Ian Wright continued: “I’ll have to agree with Gary. The leadership skills, he’s one of the most successful manager’s since Sir Alf Ramsey. I’d like to see him still doing it.
“If he’s not, he’s going going to manage some role for England at different levels of the game. It’s disappointing even to the point where I said we came back twice because I couldn’t see Harry missing it.”