Analysis: With Southgate the architect England have solid foundations to build on
That was the analysis of England coach Gareth Southgate ahead of his side's game for third and fourth place against Belgium in St Petersburg on Saturday.
In theory Jordan Henderson, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker will still be available in their early 150's and England's recent success at Under 17, Under 20 and Under 21 means more young faces, such as Manchester City's Phil Foden, Swansea's Alfie Mawson and Fulham's 18-year-old Ryan Sessegnon will be knocking on the door.
"The public have probably enjoyed the way that we've played, they've got to know the players a little bit better I think. I feel there will be an affinity there," said Southgate, highlighting how his side has won its way back into the public conscience and with the promise of more to come.
"The team will be better in a couple of years," Southgate says: "We have to build. We have some good young players coming through. We've had success at youth level. What we've done over the last few weeks has shown what is possible. We want to be in semi-finals and finals and we've shown to ourselves that can happen. Now we have to use it as a springboard to reach the latter stages of tournaments consistently."
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will be 28, Marcus Rashford 24, Raheem Sterling, 27, while captain Harry Kane, will be just 28, Dele Alli 26, Jesse Lingard 29, John Stones 28, Harry Maguire 29, Ruben Loftus-Cheek 26 and Trent Alexander-Arnold 23.
It has been a good World Cup for England; not just because they reached the semi-finals for just the third time in their history, but because the elegant and eloquent Southgate has managed to become the most popular England manager since Sir Bobby Robson (perhaps more so considering some of the criticism Robson suffered before 1990), while his young squad of players recaptured the imagination and affection of a jaded public.
The World Cup campaign began two years ago with long ball defensive football, empty seats in Wembley and Sam Allardyce sacked after one game in charge and it ended with packed bars and pubs and public spaces filled with fans watching England on big screens.
"We have one of two paths to go...This is either a moment of rare hope and we sink back. Or we build in the way that Germany did in 2010," said the coach.
Southgate will also be able to build on a squad which has youth on its side: if inexperience was a factor in their semi-final defeat, it shouldn't be in 2022 when many of the players should be in their prime.
By Paul Giblin
ST PETERSBURG, July 14 (Xinhua) -- "They will improve and these experiences will build resilience as a group. We have to build, we've set a bench mark and we have to keep focusing on that. That's the start point for any team and then we can improve the detail and tactical play in those important matches."
Southgate was clinical and honest in his analysis as when he also said his side was not yet at the level of the top-four countries in the World, despite having reached the last four in Russia.
With Southgate at the helm you feel it will be the latter and what this young England side has done in Russia could be the start of something even better to come.
The good news for England is that Southgate is staying as coach after the World Cup: Robson stepped down after 1990, and Terry Venables did the same after the 1996 Euros, meaning momentum was lost as new coaches with new ideas came in and England went back to the drawing board. That won't happen this time.