The countdown clock will now have to be reset for 2026.
The watch, which was supposed to reach zero with England’s triumph at the 2022 World Cup, has been hanging there at England’s St. George’s Park base for nine years, concealed from the public gaze.
In his audacious opening keynote speech at London’s Millbank Tower in September 2013, former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke set the widely mocked ambition of winning the tournament in Qatar, which directly led to the creation of the clock. In the end, England was outscored by three wins. Their ambitions were dashed by the holders France on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
However, time moves forward. After the dust settles, the focus must go to Euro 2024 in Germany before another World Cup, which Canada, Mexico, and the United States will co-host. So, where does England stand in their quest to finally break the cycle of defeat?
England’s new generation to treasure
Although England may have performed better in Moscow in 2018 to advance to the semifinals than they did in Qatar, Gareth Southgate’s class of 2022 is definitely in far better shape going forward.
Six of the starting lineups that fell to Croatia four years ago were still in place against France, but England’s current team has a touch of young brilliance that allows it far more space for growth than the lineup that included an ailing Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, and the seasoned Ashley Young. arriving mishaps or the unexpected, England’s young generation will be reaching its zenith in the following World Cup, and what a zenith it promises to be.
Jude Bellingham, who is only 19 years old, will go far in life. He has already led Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, displayed impressive maturity in the Champions League, and was one of England’s top players here.
With his talent, grace, power, and intelligence, he embodies the ideal modern midfielder. Bellingham will lead England in the future. The elite of Europe will line up in a neat line when he becomes available on the transfer market.
Bukayo Saka, a 21-year-old Arsenal player, is familiar with the ups and downs of international football because he missed a penalty in Italy’s loss in the Euro 2020 final shootout at Wembley. This exceptional young man not only possesses a strong moral code but also exudes excellence on the field and the freedom to express himself.
Saka harassed France in the quarterfinal, gaining a penalty and posing numerous threats while scoring twice as Iran was defeated 6-2. He also scored in audacious fashion in the last-16 triumph over Senegal.
Saka was a standout performer on one flank, but 22-year-old Manchester City wide player Phil Foden was another hint of things to come as he scored against Wales and assisted on two of England’s goals in their 3-0 victory over Senegal. He will also undoubtedly start for years.
Declan Rice, the captain of West Ham United, is only 23 years old, but his performance against France demonstrated his comfort at the World Cup level and why he is so highly regarded. He is another who might eventually don the captain’s hat. The FA is encouraged by England’s other pools of young talent and believes Dyke’s ambition can come true four years after the original deadline.
Excellent right-back Reece James of Chelsea, who is absent from this game due to injury, is only 23 years old, while Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, who saw little action in Qatar, is a year older.
Harvey Elliott, a teammate of Alexander from Arnold’s Liverpool, is already a player of the future for England at the age of 19, and Conor Gallagher, a player from Chelsea, will improve as a result of traveling with the team. Emile Smith Rowe, 22, of Arsenal, and Jacob Ramsey, 21, of Aston Villa, both have dreams of playing for England.
The future is significantly brighter than it was when England advanced to the final in Russia, even amid the agony of this quarterfinal defeat.
Will England’s old guard survive?
Change is inevitable, but it’s unlikely that England’s manager, whether that’s Southgate or not, will make immediate, drastic changes to a team that once again advanced to the final round in Qatar.
The England team that competed in the 2018 Moscow semi-final loss included goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, defenders Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, midfielder Jordan Henderson, and strikers Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.
Given that people are living longer, it is not implausible to assume that Walker, Henderson, and Kieran Trippier, all 32 of them, have participated in their final World Cup and will need to keep their health and form to be considered for Euro 2024.
Although Maguire, who is 29 years old, clearly demonstrated why Southgate had confidence in Qatar, even his future at Manchester United is doubtful. Stones of Manchester City was exceptional in an unobtrusive way, and his style of play may allow him a second chance at the World Cup.
In Germany, Kane, 29, will undoubtedly be the captain of England’s attack barring an injury or a loss of form, but does he still have enough left in the tank to compete in another World Cup? Although Sterling, 28, hasn’t been particularly impressive at Chelsea this year, the fact that he had to return to England because his family’s home was broken into absolutely overshadowed his World Cup performance.
Pickford won’t be entering his prime till he is 28 years old. In Qatar, he once more demonstrated why he is without a doubt England’s top pick. Aaron Ramsdale of Arsenal is the most obvious potential rival, but not yet. All of the aforementioned have shown enough character and resiliency to assure that they will not be written off, although churn is unavoidable due to time and the emergence of youth.
And what about Southgate?
The biggest query following the World Cup is this. There is no solution as of now. With the defeat to France so fresh in his memory, Southgate was understandably reluctant to talk about his future. However, one aspect of this equation is extremely obvious. The Football Association would dearly want Southgate to fulfill the entire term of his agreement, which runs until December 2024.
The manager, who has the greatest record since England’s Sir Alf Ramsey, who won the World Cup in 1966, is torn between continuing into a fourth competition, taking a break, or even returning to club management with his stock high.