Jamie Carragher believes Gareth Southgate could have been braver with his substitutions in England’s quarter-final loss to France – and is now hoping Argentina win the World Cup instead.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity missed certainly when you see who else is left in the competition,” Carragher told Sky Sports News.
“Whoever would have won the game would have been favourites for the competition. I think that would have been the first time I have ever felt England were favourites for a World Cup or should go on and win the World Cup if they had beaten France.
“The way England played in the game, and the teams that are left in the competition, it does feel like a huge opportunity missed.”
Could Southgate have been braver?
For all the talk of England’s squad depth, Southgate did not make his first substitution until the 79th minute – immediately after Olivier Giroud had scored what turned out to be the winning goal for France.
“I think when you lose a game there are things that you can look back on and think could you have done differently. Maybe that is in hindsight and it’s easy to say after the event,” Carragher continued.
“I did feel before the game, England have to be brave from the bench in terms of making substitutions. It just felt in that period between the two goals he could have been braver from the bench.
“I know Gareth Southgate has been criticised for that in the past in the games against Croatia [in the 2018 World Cup semi-final] and Italy [in the Euro 2020 final]. Both those sides were better than us, but I don’t think France were better than us and I felt the change would have been to win the game not to stop the opposition.
“And as I said, with the strength England have on the bench, with the strongest bench in the competition, I firmly believe that and I just think that we could been a bit more proactive in that period when it was 1-1 and we were playing really well.”
England are good enough to win now
However it is not that Carragher wants Southgate to leave his post.
“That’s up to Gareth Southgate in terms of the decision he wants to make. I certainly wouldn’t be calling for him to go or think there should be a change of manager. He’s done absolutely fantastic with this group of players. What they’ve done over the last two or three tournaments has been outstanding.
“Most people in this country would want Gareth Southgate to continue and feel like this team could improve. I felt from his point of view before the tournament, there was a lot of noise because the results weren’t going well, he was getting a lot of criticism which I couldn’t really understand considering the job he’s done.
“If he wants to stay that would be great for England and going into the next tournament. They’ve got to go into it believing they can win. I think England are good enough to win tournaments now, we’ve shown how close we get, but in those vital moments we can we still improve, get the game-management right. It’s so vital in tournaments, it’s imperative to get everything right on the big nights.”
Kane will bounce back as the best do
Harry Kane’s penalty offered England the opportunity to equalise again late in the game but the captain missed in a moment that will live long in the memory. However Carragher believes the striker has the mental strength to overcome the setback.
“We’re talking about one of the strongest players mentally not just in the England squad but the Premier League. He gets a lot thrown at him over his career – I’m not sure why.
“This is one of those moments that will be remembered. He’ll remember it, we’ll all look back in years to come and remember this World Cup and that penalty miss.
“That happens with a lot of top players and they always bounce back because that’s the reason they’re at the top, they’re so strong mentally. People miss penalties, it happens. [Lionel] Messi missed one in this tournament.”
Messi can cement status as the greatest
Carragher is now hoping Messi can win the World Cup with Argentina – an achievement that he believes would confirm the player’s status as the greatest of all-time.
“I would love to see Argentina win it for Lionel Messi. France are the best team but perhaps it’s written for Messi and Argentina to win it. Having lost that first game, they’ve built on that. The support they’ve got in the stadiums is absolutely outstanding.
“They crossed the line at times against the Netherlands but it just feels they want to win that much that they’re going to be a nightmare to play against. I’d expect a lot more of that against Croatia, and the same in the final if they get through.
“It might not be the greatest spectacle in terms of we may not be happy with some of their antics but they’re so desperate to win. If Messi could lift the World Cup it would cement him as the greatest player to have ever played the game.”
England should be angry – that is a compliment
As for England, Carragher remains optimistic about their chances of going further at Euro 2024 in Germany – a tournament that is only a year-and-a-half away.
“The feeling amongst the players this morning will be that they can’t wait to get back into this arena again in tournament football. It looks like they have the time of their lives when they’re away with England, I can’t say I felt the same in tournament football.
“That’s down to Gareth and what he’s created there. I’m sure they can’t wait to get back together in 18 months.
“In the last two tournaments England have been gallant losers, we’ve been so proud of them and they’ve just missed out. I think this group of players and manager now should be angry in some ways. That’s almost a compliment because they’re too good now to accept just losing in a good fashion and say how unlucky they were.
“That game last night was there to be won. They should wake up this morning and be proud of what they’ve done but also be really disappointed. It was there for them.”