Talking football: England can't throw out the baby with the bath water

We've been here so many times before, it shouldn't even be a surprise by now.
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Once again, England promised so much and yet, agonisingly, it wasn't to be.

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It's not, in fact, 'coming home'.

Gareth Southgate commiserates with Harry Kane on Saturday eveningGareth Southgate commiserates with Harry Kane on Saturday evening
Gareth Southgate commiserates with Harry Kane on Saturday evening

The players are. But the World Cup trophy, annoyingly, will be bound for elsewhere.

This one might even be the most painful one yet.

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We can handle not being good enough, and not deserving to do it.

For much of my lifetime, that's been the case.

We're used to being beaten by the better side on the night.

We can even stomach the humiliation of being beaten by opposition who, with respect, shouldn't even be on the same pitch.

It's England, it's what happens.

This lot, however, did not deserve what happened to them on Saturday evening.

They took the game to the world champions - Kylian Mbappe and all - from the off.

And for the most part, they were the better side.

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They even had to contend with THE most outrageous refereeing performance I have ever witnessed in my life.

Time and again decisions went against England - the foul on Saka in the lead-up to the first goal, the failure to award Harry Kane an early penalty, the booking of Jordan Henderson for Mbappe tripping himself up...and the initial ignoring of the mugging on Mason Mount that was eventually overturned only by VAR.

Despite all that, it all boiled down to a missed penalty, an agony which captain Kane absolutely didn't deserve.

You wouldn't rather have had anyone in world football lining up to take that first spot-kick, which he dispatched with typical aplomb.

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But having to do it a second time...against his Tottenham club-mate Hugo Lloris, who knows his game, his quirks, his mannerisms better than anyone else in world football...should that decision have been taken away from him?

Hindsight is indeed 20/20 vision.

It's all hypothetical now, of course.

Certainly no-one should be blaming Kane for his miss.

And I have to say anyone saying ‘Southgate out’ needs to have a word with themselves.

He sent out a team that outplayed the world champions, and who’ll probably win it again.

He didn’t miss the penalty, or misreferee the game, or control the VAR.

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This whole need for a scapegoat is one of the worst things in modern football.

As Gary Neville said after the game: “I would love Gareth to stay on. England is in a pretty good place. We’ve gone out of tournaments in the last 25 years in disgrace, where you’ve thought: ‘What the hell is the future?’… We’ve got a great future here and he’s a big part of that.”

Southgate might not be the greatest tactical mastermind ever to occupy a technical area.

But the way he's made everyone fall back in love with the England side, managing to foster a 'club' mentality among the players - as opposed to the dressing room being divided by club ties, as in the past - has been exemplary.

He's made supporting England a proud experience again.

He's given us cause to hope once again.

Of course, it's the hope that kills you.

But maybe, just maybe, it'll come home in two years' time...