Penalty glory and Euros heartbreak – the highs and lows of Southgate's England tenure

By Sports Desk December 18, 2022 416

Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager following a valiant World Cup exit to holders France, with the Three Lions boss set to lead his side through Euro 2024.

The news will undoubtedly please many and frustrate a few others, as the most successful man to lead the men's national team since Alf Ramsey sets his sights on a fourth major tournament.

Despite lacking tangible silverware for his efforts, no manager has come closer to success with them than Southgate for generations, with his side serving up plenty of highs and a handful of lows.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look over some of the defining moments of his tenure in charge – from breaking long-standing national hoodoos, to falling just short of all-time greatness.

Breaking the penalty curse

Heading into their first major tournament under Southgate, expectations were low for England. Dismal campaigns at Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016 were not forgotten, after a placid loss to Belgium wiped out a rout against Panama.

When Colombia stuck late in regular time to force a penalty shoot-out in the last 16, fans were braced for the worst. But Southgate bucked the trend – and put his own demons to rest – as his side held their nerve with a cathartic win on penalties.

Missing the mark in Moscow

Reaching the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time since 1990, England had transformed the goodwill of a nation back home, and Kieran Trippier's early free-kick gave them the perfect start.

But with an early lead on the board, Southgate's side slipped into defensive inertia rather than chase a second goal – and Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic subsequently struck to deliver the first heartbreak of his tenure.

Nailing the Nations League 

Grouped again with Croatia and a highly fancied Spain side for the inaugural Nations League campaign, England made a rough start, with defeat to La Roja and a draw against their former semi-final foes in 2018.

But a Raheem Sterling double in Seville saw them stun their hosts, before Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane struck late to deliver bedlam at Wembley against Croatia and take the Three Lions to the Finals.

A Dutch downer

But once at the Finals in Portugal, England failed to heed the lessons of Russia, and surrendered an early lead once more against the Netherlands as they lost in the semi-finals.

Though they beat Switzerland on penalties to finish third – and claim their first medal result of Southgate's time in charge – it marked a bittersweet end to what could have been a serious silverware shot.

Euro fever hits

In a pan-continental edition of the delayed 2020 European Championship, England were blessed with home advantage for the majority of their games – and with each successive result, they delivered a shot to Southgate's tenure.

The defensively minded approach of the manager, with a double-pivot in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, proved the perfect counter, and helped them reach the final, with a major win over old enemies Germany on the way.

Heartbreak against Italy

Forever the great "what-if" of the Southgate era, England headed into the final of Euro 2020 as marginal favourites, boosted by home advantage at Wembley and a Luke Shaw goal two minutes only strengthened their belief.

But across an ill-tempered encounter, Leonardo Bonucci's squeaky equaliser forced a shoot-out where the old ghosts reared their heads, as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed to hand Italy the crown.

Hungary like the wolf

On the back of a brilliant 2021, expectations were high as England entered a World Cup year, and they were favoured to do well in the latest Nations League iteration.

But a double loss to Hungary sunk their chances, and they were ultimately relegated from the top tier of the competition after struggles with Italy and Germany too – possibly the most humiliating moment of Southgate's tenure. 

An early bath in Qatar

With his reputation having been savaged in some quarters over 2022, it may seem weird to consider Qatar 2022 a high-water mark for Southgate – but the fact is it ranks among his most impressive tournament performances.

Incisive, attacking displays against Iran and Wales showcased his side's offensive nous, either side of a stalemate with the United States, as did a win over Senegal in the last 16.

While defeat to France in the quarter-finals was another great "what-if" moment, it marked the first England loss in a major tournament where they went down guns blazing. That points to a bright future – and Southgate may still be the man to harness it best.

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Last modified on Sunday, 18 December 2022 12:10
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