World Cup: Better than expected but let us now build on this, say FA

England manager Gareth Southgate acknowledges the fans after the FIFA World Cup third place play-off match at Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)
England manager Gareth Southgate acknowledges the fans after the FIFA World Cup third place play-off match at Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)
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Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn believes England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals has given them a platform to aspire to greater heights.

Gareth Southgate’s side surprised many with their run to the last four in Russia, but Glenn feels it was the result of much hard work on and off the field.

And with that set-up remaining in place moving forward, coupled with the re-energising of supporters’ love for the national side after years of under-achievement, targets should remain high.

Glenn said: “We got to the semi-final. We felt having got that far we could almost touch the World Cup, and we didn’t get through.

“There is a feeling of disappointment but offsetting that is a really good sense of progress. We didn’t expect the squad, with the experience it has, to make the semi-finals of the World Cup.

“We are going to build from here. We are not going to see this as a high-water mark that in future we look back ruefully on.

Belgium's Eden Hazard (centre) and England's Harry Maguire (right) battle for the ball during the FIFA World Cup third place play-off match at Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Belgium's Eden Hazard (centre) and England's Harry Maguire (right) battle for the ball during the FIFA World Cup third place play-off match at Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

“We are going to keep getting stronger. We can’t guarantee we will win, but we can be a lot more consistent in terms of how we compete at the quarters, semis and finals.”

For Glenn, the reconnection of the England team with supporters has been one of the most encouraging aspects of the World Cup performance. He puts that down to the creation of an environment on and off the field in which players can thrive.

He said: “I think it’s the reconnecting with the England fans (that has stood out), the fact that fans got really excited by the way we played, the way the England team have shown up – team first, individuals second.

“It’s been proper teamwork, I think, that people have felt in previous tournaments has been lacking.

Gareth is a credit to his country, the way he carries himself, the way he leads, the way he motivates.

Martin Glenn

“It just feels like a more grown-up, open, fun environment. We’re disappointed we didn’t make the final but everyone has enjoyed the ride.”

Glenn feels manager Southgate deserves a lot of credit for the creation of that set-up, which has included changes to support staff and psychological preparations, good strength and conditioning work and improved media relations.

“We really appreciate the work Gareth has done and the team he has put together on and off the pitch,” added Glenn. “We’re not talking about contracts right now but we would love him to stay for longer. He is on the start of a project.

“He is a credit to his country, the way he carries himself, the way he leads, the way he motivates.

“One of the reasons the players have enjoyed the five weeks in Russia so much is that he gives them something different to think about.

“He is excellent and a great ambassador for our country and our team.”

Glenn’s sentiments were echoed by the FA’s technical director Dan Ashworth, who also hopes England’s exploits in Russia do not prove to be a 
one-off.

Ashworth, who said the FA was delighted with the progress made by Gareth Southgate’s side, added: “I believe that we are making good progress but we don’t for one minute think that we have solved all the problems because the bottom line is that we haven’t won the World Cup.

“It’s important that we now make sure that this tournament isn’t a one-off, that it isn’t a false dawn.”

Ashworth pointed to the success of England’s development sides – England won the under-17 World Cup in India in 2017 beating Spain 5-2 in the final, while their under-20 counterparts are also world champions – as evidence the future is bright.

Speaking about Euro 2020, where the semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley, Ashworth said: “We want to be at our own party, don’t we?

“We will review this tournament find out what we could have done a bit better, find out what we have done well, keep the things we have done well, improve on things we felt we could have done better and foot flat to the floor with Spain in the UEFA Nations League in six weeks.” He said the side were “desperate” to bring something home for the country, adding: “We’ll keep pushing to do that.”