England manager Gareth Southgate doesn’t believe England are one of the world’s top four teams despite finishing fourth in the 2018 World Cup on Saturday.
England secured the country’s second-best finish at a World Cup, matching the 1990 team, after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Belgium in the third-place game.
While Southgate was proud of his young team’s achievement, he said they were under no “illusions” about where they stand in world football.
“In the end, we are very proud of what we’ve done. We’re under no illusions as to where we stand as a team; we’ve finished in the final four but we’re not a top-four team yet, we know that and we’ve never hidden behind that,” Southgate said.
“Against the very best teams we’ve come up short but we’ve had a wonderful adventure and some experiences that will stand this group of players and staff in really good stead for the future.
“I couldn’t ask any more of any of the players today or right the way through the seven weeks we’ve worked together.”
Belgium bookended the game with goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard to achieve their best-ever result in the tournament.
England were on top for most of the second half, but with captain Harry Kane looking tired, Belgium’s greater sharpness in the final third proved decisive.
Speaking after the match, Kane agreed with his coach that the Three Lions have plenty of room for growth.
“This game showed there is still room for improvement,” Kane said after the match.
“We’re not the finished article, we’re still improving and will only get better. We don’t want to wait another 20 years to get into the semifinals and the big matches. We need to improve, we need to get better, but that will come.”
The Tottenham forward said the players gave everything they had against the Belgians and could hold their heads high despite the outcome.
Kane said: “In the second half, we played really well. We had them on the ropes for the first half-hour of that and we just couldn’t get a goal.
“We had one cleared off the line, and we put the pressure on. But the lads couldn’t give any more, it has been a tough tournament.
“Belgium are obviously a good team. I can’t fault the lads, we gave it everything.”