England can call off the search for a new manager after Gareth Southgate decided to continue in the wake of their agonising World Cup exit.
The Three Lions may have exited to France at the quarter-final stage – a regression on their last two tournament performances – but the manner of their performance has swung a great deal of public opinion back behind Southgate.
He will now continue until at least the European Championships in Germany in 2024 but what does Southgate need to do now to take the Three Lions to the next level?
Gareth Southgate has decided to continue as England manager until at least Euro 2024
Southgate had been contemplating his future following England’s World Cup exit to France
What does Gareth Southgate have to do?
After a semi-final, final and quarter-final in the last three major tournaments, and the nature of each exit, Gareth Southgate’s challenge is clear – to take that next step with this England team.
There might be differing opinions on exactly what that looks like. To some it is as clear as winning Euro 2024 in Germany.
To others, that might be too simple a demand that does not account for the quality of opposition across the continent, so at least proving England and he can go head-to-head with the bigger nations when they are at a good level of strength, and come out on top will be a step forward.
The World Cup quarter-final against France was as close as England have come to doing that but, still, it was not close enough.
Harry Kane (right) is consoled after missing his penalty late in the quarter-final with France
But, whichever camp you fall into, there is too much of a sense of what might have been and what might still be with this group.
A feeling that is too strong for Southgate to walk away from, largely, the squad and culture he has built in the last six years.
And one that leaves a feeling that the maximum has not yet been extracted from the wealth of talent at his disposal.
When he does leave, Southgate will want to be sure he has exhausted every avenue in a bid to do just that. It will be a bit of a wait before we find out whether England can make the necessary strides required.
Southgate memorably helped guide England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup
The biggest challenge in their Euro 2024 qualifying group will be provided by Italy.
That offers a shot at revenge and chance, in some ways, to show what they have learned since losing the Euro 2020 final.
But the cynics may question their strength given their failure to qualify for the last two World Cups either side of winning the Euros.
And there is a huge difference between facing one of the so-called bigger nations in qualifying, the Nations League or a friendly and overcoming them in a crunch knockout tie in a major tournament.
So whatever Southgate has to prove, he has to do it when the heat is really on, in Germany, in 18 months’ time.
They also reached the Euro 2020 final under him and he has been widely credited with transforming the nature and atmosphere around playing for England in a hugely positive way
What lessons might he have learned?
Having been in football so long Southgate will know many of them – this is a game decided by fine margins and failing to take chances can be oh so costly.
But Southgate may also reflect on himself and his own in-game management as he looks to improve on the previous three tournaments.
England led in their 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia and the Euro 2020 final against Italy but both times allowed themselves to be reeled back in and eventually beaten by wily opponents who were able to handle the ball and pressure of the high-stakes occasion better.
Having gone behind against France, England showed where they had improved. Their approach against the eventual runners-up suggested some lessons had been learned in the far more proactive and unfazed way they played.
Southgate did show he had learned the lessons from previous tournament failures when England went on the offensive against France – but ultimately it wasn’t enough
However, again, at crucial points when the initiative was there to be seized Southgate and England came up short.
Spotting those opportunities when opponents are there for the taking and capitalising on them will be what Southgate’s doubters want to see as well as an ability from him to inspire his team to get over the line, no matter how.
The World Cup finalists, Argentina and France, were not the best two teams on show during the last month in Qatar but they repeatedly showed they knew what it took to end a game victorious regardless of how well they played.
Argentina won the World Cup because they repeatedly found ways to win tricky matches
Who could move on and who could be integrated?
The bulk of the squad Southgate took to Qatar were 30 or under and will still be available for England by the time Euro 2024 rolls around.
Even the more senior players, Jordan Henderson, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier – currently 32 – might well feel they will still have something to offer.
But inevitably, there will be some new faces bringing a freshness to the England squad.
Some will be players who missed out on selection for Qatar due to injury such as Reece James and Ben Chilwell while Jadon Sancho’s talent is well-known and he should be able to get himself back in contention once he gets back on track.
Reece James missed the World Cup through injury but will be fundamental to England
There may well be a place for Jadon Sancho once he overcomes his current difficulties
What is fascinating is where and how Southgate makes space for the new blood in his squad.
England look better in the central midfield area in Qatar than the previous two tournaments but still a bit on the safe side rather than capable of controlling a game or hurting opponents.
Any player who could change that would surely enter Southgate’s thinking.
Harvey Elliott’s development at Liverpool will be intriguing in that context as will that of Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze, both players at ease in possession and capable of opening opponents up.
Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey and Everton’s Anthony Gordon are other youngsters on the rise, who Qatar came too soon for.
Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott has every chance of breaking into England’s midfield
Eberechi Eze, of Crystal Palace, is another player with potential to make the national side
John Stones and Harry Maguire are Southgate’s central defensive pairing of choice but there are younger, high-quality options coming through such as Palace’s Marc Guehi while the highly-rated Levi Colwill’s progress could also be one to watch.
Brentford’s Rico Henry and Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell represent future candidates at left-back.
Harry Kane will not turn 31 until a fortnight after the Euro 2024 final so Southgate will hope the need for a successor to him or more competition for him will be an issue that can wait a little while yet.