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English pundits slam refereeing despite getting TWO penalties, but call for Southgate to stay

England might have exited the World Cup at the quarter final stage to the first good team they faced – plus ça change – but the mood in the UK is one of optimism, despite the devastating defeat, tinged with the traditional haranguing of officials.

Normally, the process of bloodletting after England depart the World Cup starts early: first, they crucify the person who missed the penalty (it’s always a penalty), then they ask for a root and branch restructure of the game to get to the bottom of why they can’t score penalties. Oh, and they love to slag the ref whatever happens.

Despite England being given two penalties in the game – the first a fairly obvious call, the second via VAR – Gary Neville was straight in on Wilton Sampaio for allowing France to defend more physically than he liked.

There was a call for a foul in the build-up to France’s first, but it happen 90m from England’s goal and was, at best, a 50/50 shout.

“You see French defending, it was startling,” said the former England and Manchester United defender. “We knew it was the weak point in their team but I don’t think we knew they’d make those poor decision in those types of areas.

“The referee had a nightmare game, an absolute joke of a referee. I’m not saying that was all down to England’s defeat because that’s making excuses, he was just a bad referee, rank bad.”

England defender Harry Maguire piled in too. “I can’t really explain his performance,” he said. “The number of decisions he got wrong was actually incredible. Really poor.”

Roy Keane saved his ire for keeper Jordan Pickford, who he thought could have saved Aurelien Tchouameni’s shot anyway.

“Brilliant strike,” he said. “The keeper could he do better? Yeah, I think so.”

The general mood, however, was one of optimism given the age profile of the squad and their departure to the reigning champions.

“Heartbreaking once again, but no shame in losing to an excellent French team and congratulations to them,” wrote Gary Lineker.

“There was so little to choose between the two sides. This fine young England team gave their all and will only get better. Their time will come.”

On the TV coverage, all the pundits called for Gareth Southgate to stay on at least until the European Championships in 2024, after which his contract is set to expire.

“I would love Gareth to stay on for another two years,” said Neville. “I’d love him to stay on beyond that whether it be actually as the coach or whether it be in a role in the FA in the future.

“England in the last 10 years have won youth tournaments. We’ve won a women’s tournament in the summer. We’ve got to the men’s final in the Euros. We’re playing really well.

“We’ve got a good team of technical players. England is in a pretty good place, let’s be clear about that.

“We’ve been out of tournaments in disgrace in the last 25 years, thinking what the hell is that what is the future. We’ve got a great future and he is a big part of that.”

Ian Wright agreed, and there was even positivity from noted curmudgeon Keane.

“He is our most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey,” said Ian Wright. “I would like to see him still doing it. If he’s not going to coach in some role in terms of the team.”

Keane added: “You’d fully expect Gareth to stay on for the Euros, of course. He’ll have an exit plan in his head. Is he still up for it? The players will be making big decisions over the next few months, some of the older players.

“I agree with absolutely everything everyone has said about Gareth, but he’ll have to look at his future and talk to his family. He’s done a fantastic job. Does he want to give it a couple more years, hopefully he does.”

Over on the BBC, it was a classic theme of valiant defeat.

“I think they should be proud of their performances in this World Cup,” said Micah Richards.

“A lot of people said they haven’t faced anyone and can only beat what’s in front of them. But today I saw a resilient England, they never gave up, but just the crucial moments in the game which they couldn’t get over the line.”

Even the French pundits agreed that England might have shaded the play.

“I think England were better, especially in the second half,” said Julien Laurens.

“There was a moment where you were so much better and should have capitalised.

“If you don’t kill a team like France when they’re on the floor then it will come back to haunt you. Even without the Kane penalty, England should have won that game. If you don’t put us down then that can happen.

“You need to learn how to win these clutch games. You don’t just rock up against a big nation and then go and win if you’re not 100% perfect in every sense.”

French sports daily L’Equipe was less charitable, leading in English with an ironic “Sorry, good game”, before referring to “crunchism”, the ability to take chances in big moments.

“The French won by bravery and the English lost by their tradition.” wrote columnist Vincent Duluc. “The strength of a team is not just that they play well, but that they have other virtues.

“It’s right to celebrate this French team in the semi-finals of the World Cup as an acheivement because they took all the pressure that fell on their backs and kept searching and trying to create.”

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