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World Cup: England at a crossroads as they crash out in Qatar

England's wait for their second World Cup goes on after they were beaten 2-1 by France at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar on Saturday night.

Gareth Southgate's side will rue another missed opportunity on the big stage, four years after losing to Croatia in the semi-finals in Russia.

France took a 17th-minute lead when Aurelien Tchouameni's 25-yard drive beat Jordan Pickford, but England rallied to draw level in the 54th minute.

Tchouameni fouled Bukayo Saka in the box, allowing Harry Kane to score his 53rd England goal, which allowed him to equal Wayne Roney's record.

However, former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud headed home Antoine Griezmann's cross to restore France's lead 12 minutes from time before Kane then missed a second penalty after Theo Hernandez fouled Mason Mount in the area.

Penalty pain for Kane

The Tottenham striker went for power but blazed his effort over the crossbar. England failed to create any more meaningful opportunities, and it will now be France that face Morocco for a place in the final in Qatar.

Unlike previous disappointments at a World Cup, England produced a solid display and gave fans hope for the future, but there could still be plenty of changes before Euro 2024 in 18 months' time.

The Three Lions are 7/1 To Win Outright, France 6/1 and hosts Germany 5/1 and it will be intriguing to see how they shape up looking ahead to what could be the last chance for some of their stars.

Southgate to bide his time 

England boss Southgate has had to try and silence his fair share of critics, but he nearly guided his side into a second successive World Cup semi-final. The Three Lions played some of the best football at the World Cup in Qatar, but sadly they have nothing to show for it as they prepare to head home.

Southgate himself will now return to his family, and he says he needs to "review and reflect" before deciding if he is the right man to lead the Three Lions forward.

The 52-year-old has been in charge for six years and has a contract until after the Euro 2024 finals, but another painful defeat may have been the last straw for the former Middlesbrough defender.

While Southgate was noncommittal about his future, England's players have thanked him for his leadership, while both Declan Rice and Harry Maguire have urged him to carry on ahead of the Euros in 2024.

Lessons to be learned before Germany

Despite their latest disappointment, England, as long as they qualify, will head to Euro 2024 in Germany as one of the favourites.

The Three Lions have continued to grow and learn under Southgate, but there are still areas in which they can improve in.

England's exit was always going to be painful, but considering France, Morocco, Argentina, and Croatia remain, this World Cup could be England's best chance for some time. 

France are now 11/10 To Win Outright, while Lionel Messi's Argentina will fancy their chances at 17/10.

Southgate's approach has clearly worked wonders over the years, but he may regret some of his decisions in the closing stages, while the lack of minutes for midfielder James Maddison is disappointing, considering his recent form.

If Southgate is to stay on and succeed at the Euros in 2024, he may need to make some big calls in the next 12 months, with several members of his squad now on the wrong side of 30.

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Will England's leaders carry on or call it a day?

England's World Cup squad, on the whole, was well-balanced and felt like it had the right amount of experience-to-youth ratio. While the likes of Jude Bellingham, Saka and Phil Foden will expect to be in the squad for the next decade, several members of Southgate's group may not take to the field by the time the next World Cup starts in 2026.

Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Jordan Henderson will all be 36, and their participation at the Euros is not guaranteed. Southgate will no doubt want as many experienced players as possible within his squad, but there is no guarantee that Walker, Trippier and Henderson will still be playing week in and week out in the Premier League within the next few years.

Southgate has often depended on Maguire at centre-back, but with the Manchester United defender out of the picture at Old Trafford, he may be forced to settle for a backup role in the coming years.

Despite losing to France, Southgate has a hungry and determined squad that looks ready to challenge on the big stage. Their latest disappointment will take some getting over, but the attention will now turn to the return of the Premier League, and it will not be long before England start their qualifying campaign for the Euros.

All tournament exits require a debrief and a thorough review, but England's squad may only need minor tweaks to ensure they can be crowned European champions for the first time at Euro 2024.

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