here should be no period of national introspection, no reset, no major inquest, no root and branch review and no need for recriminations.
The question now is whether Southgate is prepared to continue along it, after the England manager revealed he needs a “few weeks” to decide his future.
Southgate has made the impossible job seem possible, even attractive, but clearly it remains as emotionally taxing as any in the game and, speaking immediately after the defeat by France, the 52-year-old appeared fractured and drained.
“What I want to make sure, if it’s the right thing to say, is that I’ve definitely got the energy to [continue],” he said.
Southgate does not want to make a rash decision while his emotions are still raw, and he will hold talks with the Football Association over the coming weeks before reaching a decision.
He has been hurt by criticism of his management since the European Championship, while the mutiny at Molineux in June, when supporters booed and jeered him during the 4-0 defeat by Hungary, was particularly affecting.
“I’ve found large parts of the last 18 months difficult,” he said. “What’s been said and what’s been written, the night at Wolves, there’s lots of things in my head that’s really conflicted at the moment
“I don’t want to be four or five months down the line thinking I’ve made the wrong call. It’s too important for everybody to get that wrong.”
After the Euros, Southgate said he would not outstay his welcome in the role, suggesting he could walk away if fans turned against him, but the reaction from supporters in Qatar has largely been positive.
The squad and FA are desperate for him to stay on.
There are reasons to think the squad will be even better equipped for Euro 2024.
This season’s dismal Nations League campaign, which ended in relegation, suggested England might have gone stale under Southgate but their performances at the World Cup, and particularly the way they matched the world champions, suggests the side is not ending a cycle, but potentially beginning a new one.
During this tournament, Southgate has thrown off the shackles, playing a back four and taking the game to France with an astute tactical plan which nearly worked.
There is still room to improve but, unlike in 2018 and last summer’s European Championship, England were not tactically or technically outclassed by a superior side on Saturday.
Southgate got it right, only for the game to be determined by the finest of margins in each box. He cannot be blamed for Harry Kane’s uncharacteristic wobble from 12 yards, nor some peculiar refereeing decisions on the night, and encouragingly he suggested the manner of their exit would be easier to swallow than last summer’s Euros, on which he is still stewing. This time, Southgate has no regrets.
While England’s players and Southgate himself believed they were ready to win the World Cup, there is a compelling reason to think the squad will be even better equipped for the Euros in Germany in 18 months.
Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Declan Rice will be more complete players, and shaped by another big night on football’s biggest stage.
Southgate described England’s performance as “a significant psychological step for the players”, suggesting he knows that going “toe to toe” with the holders was a potential breakthrough moment for the team, proof that they truly belong in the world elite.
Where there are still questions about Southgate, they are over his ability to be the man to finally drag England over the line, to provide the indefinable quality needed to not just compete in this type of game but to win them.
Before Saturday’s quarter-final, Southgate was asked jokingly whether he was seeking revenge over Didier Deschamps for the 2000 FA Cup Final, when Deschamps’s Chelsea beat his Aston Villa side. “I know revenge is a dish best served cold but that would be freezing,” he quipped.
It was a great one-liner but the reality is that winning that FA Cup would have been the pinnacle of Southgate’s achievements as a player, whereas for Deschamps it is little more than an afterthought in a glittering career.
Deschamps is one of the game’s great winners, having captained France to the World Cup and European Championship as a player, and won titles as a manager before he answered his country’s call. Southgate, as it stands, is not.
But England have tried so-called proven winners before in Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, and how did that work out?
Southgate has proven not only a dignified, principled and uniting leader but a fine coach, who has guided England to as many knockouts win in three major tournaments as the national team managed between 1968 and 2016.
England felt close to cracking it in Qatar and, with Southgate in charge, they should be even more capable of ending the hurt at the next Euros.
Southgate has often appeared a slightly reluctant England manager, not least when he first took on the job, but he has grown into it and like his side has surely not yet peaked.
He has earned the right to have the chance to finish what he started.