England midfielder Declan Rice said Gareth Southgate should remain as manager despite their agonizing 2-1 defeat in the World Cup quarter-finals at the hands of France on Saturday.
Aurelien Tchouameni gave defending champions France an early lead at Al Bayt Stadium but Harry Kane equalized from the penalty spot in the 54th minute.
England were the better side for long stretches of the game but Olivier Giroud headed home in the 78th minute to restore France’s lead.
Kane then blazed his second penalty of the game over the bar as England’s wait to win a first major international trophy since the 1966 World Cup goes on.
West Ham’s Rice said the result was tough to take, adding that he believed the better team lost.
“We’ve come some so far. That’s a credit to the manager, the spirit he has brought to this team, the togetherness that we’ve got,” he said.
“We weren’t over-confident. We were confident enough that we really could win this tournament and that’s the mentality England have not had over the years and I think you see that in our performance tonight.”
England reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and were beaten finalists at last year’s European Championship.
“I think sometimes the negativity around England will go away once we’ve won something again,” said Rice. “I think there will always be that pressure on us but I feel like it’s starting to sway that way.
“We’re getting back to the level where people are believing in us, the country is backing us.
“For a few years it wasn’t like that so we can be really proud of ourselves as a group but we need to go again because ultimately in international football you’re judged on what you win.”
Rice said he wanted Southgate to stay at the helm.
“I hope he stays,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk around that. I think he’s been brilliant for us. I think there’s a lot of criticism that’s not deserved.
“I think he’s taken us so, so far, further than what people could expect and tonight, he got everything spots on. It’s not on him. It’s not on him at all.
“The tactics were right, we played the right way, we were aggressive, we stopped (Kylian) Mbappe… it was two goals against the run of play and that’s not down to the manager, that’s down to us on the pitch.
“I really hope he stays because the core group that we’ve got and what he’s made for us is so special to be a part of. I love playing for him and I love playing for England.”