England manager Gareth Southgate is pondering his future but left Qatar with few regrets following a crushing World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France.
Harry Kane scored a penalty and missed another against the defending champions on Saturday night in a 2-1 defeat for the Euro 2020 finalists.
England’s wait to emulate Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes of 1966 continues as attention turns to Southgate as he processes the last eight defeat and ponders his future.
The 52-year-old has a contract until the European Championship in 2024 but wants to ensure he has the energy to return and that the decision is right for the team.
“I think every time I finish these tournaments I need time to make the right decisions,” Southgate said.
“Emotionally you go through so many different feelings. The energy it takes through these tournaments is enormous.
“I want to make the right decision, whatever it is for the team, for England, for the FA. I have to be sure that the decision I take is the right one.
“I think it’s right to take the time to do that because I know in the past my feelings have fluctuated immediately after tournaments.”
Southgate said “coming back takes a lot of energy and you have to make sure you’re ready for it”, adding that there was too much in his “head to think logically about it all” so quickly after the loss.
The manager was seen giving Kieran Trippier a hug and thanking those who worked with the team during their 26-day stay at Souq Al Wakra midday on Sunday before boarding the staff coach for the ‘airport.
Southgate did an interview with the Football Association media channels ahead of England’s departure to return home as he reflected on the tournament and how “a 30 second period can turn your life upside down”.
“It’s a really strange feeling because the end of the tournament is so abrupt,” he said.
“Everybody wraps everything up and you go through years of preparation, really, and then there’s this feeling.
“There is the feeling that we were so close and the level of performance that I was so happy with.
“There’s the disappointment that we think we could have gone on and done more and yet I really have very few regrets about the whole thing. So, yeah, emotionally it’s really been a roller coaster.
Southgate said the squad was understandably flat on Sunday when players started to trickle out in the morning.
Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among the first seen leaving their base in Qatar, where Jude Bellingham signed autographs for fans before stepping into the main players coach.
England captain Kane, Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford were among those not seen leaving before the two coaches headed to Doha airport at 12.35pm local time to catch a flight to from Birmingham, which landed before 8 p.m. GMT.
“I know it was a tournament in advance that there was a lot of focus on,” said Southgate, discussing his third major tournament as England manager.
“What makes me happy is that I think everyone who came had a very good experience and I hope that was the case.
“We felt great support in the stadium and we know the home support was amazing as well.
“I just think on a big stage, I know how the rest of the world is looking at us now.
“Listen, ultimately we failed, so I can’t walk away from that and I have to accept that as well.
“But we are steadily feeding ourselves at the top of European and world football now and if we are in that place with the squad depth we have, then that is exciting and important for England.
“It’s a difficult time for everyone, we really appreciate that, and I think the players have represented them (the England fans) in the right way, played in the right way and we hope everyone enjoyed the trip.”