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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Play Jude Bellingham, keep the ball better and coax the best from gifted playmakers – how England can go one step further in 2022

When Gareth Southgate has finally caught up on sleep and allowed some of the pain to subside, he might that reflect that only minor adjustments are needed for England to challenge again at the next major tournament.

Another benefit of a delayed European Championship is just a 17-month wait until Qatar 2022 and the chance for England to erase the hurt of Sunday’s final and show they have learned from their shortcomings against Italy.

Southgate has said he wants to remain in charge for next year’s tournament, which begins in less than 500 days in November 2022, and he will be focused on tweaks of structure and style, rather than the type of root-and-branch review that has routinely followed previous big tournaments.

Of Southgate’s youthful Euros squad, only Jordan Henderson, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, who are all (just) the wrong side of 30, are at risk of being phased out on age grounds, although their performances this summer suggest they should remain in contention for Qatar.

“All of this team can go again, but the young ones are still two to four years from peaking,” Southgate said ­yesterday.

The manager’s post-mortem of ­Sunday’s defeat has already begun and he is examining why his side suffered from familiar failings, as they squandered another lead by retreating and ceding possession to Roberto Mancini’s spiky technicians.

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