England's World Cup exit came despite the Three Lions outperforming every other side at the tournament, says Jamie Carragher, who felt Gareth Southgate could have been "braver" in Saturday's defeat to France.
Harry Kane scored a penalty and missed another as England suffered more quarter-final heartache, despite outplaying the world champions for long periods at Al Bayt stadium.
Despite amassing double the number of shots (16 to eight) and expected goals (2.41 to 1.01) than France, England succumbed to their seventh World Cup quarter-final elimination – a tournament record.
Former Three Lions defender Carragher was present for one of those exits, missing a penalty in a 2006 shoot-out loss to Portugal, but he believes Southgate's men played at a higher level than past England sides.
Recounting England's previous World Cup exits in a column for The Telegraph, Carragher wrote: "The biggest compliment I can pay Southgate's side is that they do not belong with such company.
"This England team was no underdog going toe-to-toe with the world champions. This England team leaves the tournament having played better than any side in Qatar over their five games, a genuine contender that could and arguably should have gone all the way.
"France won on the night because of moments – a stunning goal from distance and a cross from Antoine Griezmann that would have troubled any defence in the world.
"Then England missed a penalty, knowing that had Harry Kane equalised for a second time, it would have carried positive momentum into extra time."
The #ThreeLions boss provides his thoughts on last night's defeat to France:— England (@England) December 11, 2022
While praising the quality of England's displays in Qatar, Carragher said Southgate should have made better use of his squad when Saturday's game was poised at 1-1 in the second half.
"When you lose a game there's always things you look back on and think you could have done differently," he told Sky Sports.
"That's easy to say after the event, but I did feel before the game that England had to be brave from the bench. I just felt that in the period between the two goals, we could have been braver from the bench.
"With five substitutions, it's a big part of a manager's role to try to influence or change a game. I know Gareth's been criticised for that in the past, after the games against Croatia [in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals] and Italy [in the Euro 2020 final].
"Both those sides, if we're being totally honest, were better than us. I don't think France were better than us, and I felt the change should have been to try to go and win the game.
"England certainly had the strongest bench in the competition, I firmly believe that, and I just think we could have been a little bit more proactive in that period where it was 1-1 and we were playing really well."
It hurts. But we're family and we'll stick together pic.twitter.com/PNO8pvJMXh— England (@England) December 10, 2022