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Gareth Southgate has stepped back on the touchline to allow his England side to move forward

Gareth Southgate feels his job is near enough complete. His players know their roles and what is required.

The England manager is letting go. It is up to the players now. Like all responsible father figures, Southgate will be on hand to offer advice and encouragement, but if England are to lift the World Cup they will do so without their manager guiding them through every step of the game.

Southgate has made a conscious decision to step back in Qatar. You will no longer see him constantly on the edge of his technical area, sharing every emotion and blow with his players. He feels his team are beyond that.

Gareth Southgate has taken a different approach in his technical area during the World Cup 

Instead, he is more likely to be watching intently from the dugout, next to his trusted lieutenant Steve Holland, assessing players he has had a hand in raising and seeing them execute what he has taught them.

‘I got into a bit of a habit during Covid of standing out there because you felt they needed more encouragement at the side of the pitch without the fans,’ said Southgate.

‘But I’m happier just biding my time and taking my moments really. I don’t really need to be playing every ball for the players, I trust them and it has been nice to sit and watch a little bit more. In the modern game you see quite a lot going on at the side of the pitch.

The England boss insists he players are 'prepared', allowing him to take a step back

The England boss insists he players are ‘prepared’, allowing him to take a step back 

‘Look, it won’t be for some but I don’t feel I need to be out there to play every ball with them. They know what they are doing, they are prepared, they know I will be there when they need me.

‘And also we have the monitor where we can watch everything with a slight time delay if things happen when you have got to make some tactical decisions.’

Southgate’s change in approach will serve to fuel suspicions that, win or lose, this could be his last tournament in charge of England.

The FA are hoping that is not the case. So too are the players, who have built an unbreakable bond with a coach who has transformed the England team from laughing stock after Euro 2016 to a side with a genuine chance of becoming world champions.

England booked their place in the last sixteen with a 3-0 to finish the group stage in first place

England booked their place in the last sixteen with a 3-0 to finish the group stage in first place 

‘I have been determined to enjoy the tournament, I am enjoying the tournament. It is a great group of players and staff to work with,’ said Southgate, when asked about the possibility of this being his final World Cup. As it stands, his contract expires after Euro 2024 but it remains to be seen if he sees out that deal.

Those intent on reading between the lines will say clues pointing towards Southgate’s impending exit are there. All that is for another day, though.

The here and now is Sunday’s last-16 tie against Senegal. A massive occasion — but not one unfamiliar to this team. This will be England’s eighth knockout match at a major tournament in four and a half years.

‘The fact the players are used to games like this is definitely a help,’ said Southgate.

‘They have got a good amount of caps on the pitch, we have had experienced players to come in and the more you are in these sorts of experiences, the better you are at being able to show the best face of the team.

Senegal will be England's opponents in the next round in a first-time meeting between the pair

Senegal will be England’s opponents in the next round in a first-time meeting between the pair 

‘We know what the build up to the next game will be like. We know the expectation will lift.’

But experience only counts for so much. Even without the injured Sadio Mane and suspended Idrissa Gueye, Senegal are an outfit bursting with talent. Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Ismaila Sarr are all players with extensive Premier League know-how.

If that isn’t enough to concern England, their opponents are Africa Cup of Nations champions too, having beaten Egypt to the title on penalties in February. ‘It is a team I have seen enough of, I saw them play Iran a couple of months ago,’ said Southgate. ‘Even without Sadio they have good players, are well organised.

‘It is going to be a tough game. It will be similar to the games we have had already in the group, the USA one for example, and we are going to have to deal with it.

Southgate has a squad that knows how to win knockout football after the last two tournaments

Southgate has a squad that knows how to win knockout football after the last two tournaments

‘We have played possession football for a long period. We are going to have a different challenge but a lot of their players play in Europe so they are used to the style of play.

‘Their style of play from what I have seen is pretty controlled. They have outstanding individuals that can make a difference.

‘We will watch a load of tapes of Senegal because that is how we get our kicks!’

We would all get a kick out of a spot in the quarter-finals, Gareth.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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