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Gary Neville on England's World Cup exit to France: Referee was a joke but this was a massive missed opportunity

Harry Kane blazed a late penalty over the bar as England's World Cup dreams ended with a 2-1 defeat in the quarter-finals; Gary Neville praises the players, criticises the referee and reflects on a "massive missed opportunity" to win the tournament

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Gary Neville says the players should be proud of their performances, but criticised some of the referees decisions that saw England knocked out of the World Cup by a 2-1 defeat against France

Gary Neville fumed at the referee as England crashed out of the World Cup to France, calling him "a joke" and "rank bad".

Wilton Sampaio's decision-making was under the spotlight when Bukayo Saka was caught by Dayot Upamecano in the build-up to Aurelien Tchouameni's opening goal for France.

The French defender was involved again later in the half, seemingly fouling Harry Kane as he entered the box on the right but VAR failed to intervene, presumably deeming the contact outside the box.

England did finally get a penalty when Saka was fouled by Tchouameni before VAR had to step in to award their second penalty for a foul on Mason Mount, although Kane fired the decisive penalty over.

Neville said of the referee: "He had an absolute nightmare. A joke of a referee. I'm not saying it was all down to England's defeat - people will say it is excuses - but he's just a bad referee, rank bad."

Neville believed France's first goal should have been ruled out for the foul on Saka: "It's a simple decision. He kicks his leg away - I'm not sure why that isn't a foul. He's nibbled and he's kicked him. It should be a free-kick. Upamecano has tried to win the ball on three or four occasions where he can't win the ball, on Saka, on Kane."

Elaborating on Sky Sports News, Neville added: "I thought he was awful. That is not me blaming the referee for England being out, by the way, I just thought he was absolutely awful. I don't actually say that anymore. I used to when I played. But it is rare now.

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"I thought he was a shocker. We were sat right there in that corner where the penalty was with Harry Kane in the first half. It felt like we were on top of it. There were three or four fouls in that area of the pitch in the first half where you were thinking, 'How has that not been given?'. It was weird.

"Even the penalty that was given against Theo Hernandez was not given on the pitch. Don't overthink that. It was a blatant foul, that. The full-back thought he had lost his man and he was going to score so he made a double mistake by barging him in the back.

"The referee was so bad."

Bukayo Saka appears to be fouled by France's Dayot Upamecano
Image: Bukayo Saka appears to be fouled by France's Dayot Upamecano

Neville on England's missed opportunity

"You get this feeling every couple of years, every four years and you feel a bit hungover, just a little bit low, that's how I think everybody feels this morning when your team goes out of a tournament," Neville told Sky Sports News on Sunday morning. "I thought the performance was really good.

"Before the game I thought France were favourites, I thought they were the better team, but I thought actually over the course of the game, we more than equalled them.

"I thought second half we were better, first half I thought they were good in parts, we were a little bit scrappy but a missed opportunity definitely, I think, and that's not being harsh.

"I just think that's how the players and Gareth will be feeling with the work that goes in to get to this stage of a tournament, the hoops you have to jump through and knowing that it only comes round every four years and seeing what was in front of them in the semi-finals.

"Morocco have done absolutely brilliantly, and they are going to be a really tough opponent but then you think England vs Morocco in a World Cup semi-final, and again the opportunity does not become any better than that.

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Jamie Redknapp says the England players will be devastated following their narrow 2-1 loss to holders France at the World Cup

"I think those lads will feel sick this morning, they will feel gutted. I look at some of the lads last night, like Jordan Henderson at his age, doing that interview, in the back of his mind, he'll be thinking, 'Am I coming here again? Am I coming to the World Cup again?'.

"Kyle Walker who had a brilliant game against Kylian Mbappe, those sorts of things are going through my mind this morning because I have been there in 2006. I feel like that this morning.

"They did really well, the times I have gone out of tournaments in the past, we haven't always covered ourselves in glory with the performance, I think the performance last night was really good. It was just those very fine margins, little details.

"Obviously the penalty that Harry has missed as well and gutted for him but those are things that happen in a football match, but generally I thought the performance was fantastic in a really top level game against an opponent that had lots of class.

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Rob Dorsett describes 'a sorry sight' as the England team leave for the airport after being knocked out from the World Cup with a 2-1 defeat against France

"There's nothing worse than coming off a game of football and thinking you were inferior and that you deserve to lose, and that you weren't the equal of the opposition and you're a bit of an imposter really, and sometimes I felt like that with England.

"That wasn't what happened last night, we looked like we dominated the French for large parts of that second half and we got beaten by a moment ourselves with a great bit of play from Griezmann, whose ball into the box was wonderful."

Neville on England competing technically now

"The players that we have got can carry that forward and the ones that are going to be competing in the next tournament will be able to take that belief in that we can compete with these nations.

"In Euro 96, we were probably against Germany but in 2004 and 2006, we were parked on the edge of our own box, hoping really that they would not score, or that we'd get to penalties or that we would nick a goal. That's not the way to dominate and win a football tournament and win a trophy.

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Following defeat to France in the World Cup quarter-final, England boss Gareth Southgate says he will 'take a bit of time' to think about his future before making a decision

"Last night, England will think that is a massive missed opportunity. I think that more this morning than I did last night, just because of the fact the moment was now, and you just don't know when they are going to come around again.

"I thought that four years ago when we played against Croatia but these lads have got us into these situations again and again, and there has been that little something that just can't get us over the line. But I feel like the right things are happening on the pitch.

"We have a technical ability that is growing and the belief that's growing. In the past certainly, there have been autopsies about tournament exits and defeats, I don't feel like that this morning at all, I feel missed opportunity, I feel that the lads will be really dejected but not where they will think they were inferior and that has not always been the case.

"There will be people this morning and over the next few days who will be starting to turn the screw a little bit and say that we should be winning these matches, we shouldn't be accepting that we play well and lose, pretending that everything is good. And I get that a little bit, and you can take that harsh approach if you want, that's no problem.

"I just look at the performance and I think football matches are decided by margins and that's what happened last night. There was moment last night where you did feel they were there for the taking and we didn't go and grab it and they got the goal to be fair in the period after that, which can happen.

"There was an element of me thinking go on grab it, and we were grabbing it and were getting to grips with the game, but you do have to get over the line, you just have to, the best teams, the ones that are remembered, do get over the line.

"But I still feel like it is the evolution, it is part of the journey. I thought we played well, it was a game that we could always lose. We were all probably thinking that they were favourites and they would probably win six out of 10 games if we played against them."

Bellingham and Maguire slam referee: 'Really poor' - 'Not at the level'

England's Jude Bellingham also said after the game that referee Sampaio was "not at the level" expected for such a big occasion.

Asked about the official's performance, Bellingham told ITV: "Not great if I'm being honest, not great. Anyone can have a bad game, players and referees. I think he wasn't where he should have been today in terms of the level for a game like this.

"But there are more factors as to why we lost, this definitely isn't me putting it all on him, we were the ones who played the game, but yeah I don't think he was at the level tonight.

"I think there were a few [fouls] around the box in the first half, we are deadly at set pieces, and I think any one of those can make the difference."

Harry Maguire also told BBC: "Really poor, very poor. From minute one, there were five, six fouls in the first 15 minutes, not one yellow card. It's a foul for the first goal, leading up to it on Bukayo.

"I can't really go into explaining how bad his performance was. I don't want to go into too much because I'll end up getting fined. But even though the big decisions were wrong he never gave us anything, throughout the game he was really poor."

But manager Gareth Southgate stopped short of criticising Sampaio, saying: "We've lost the game. I don't think about referees. France are a fantastic team, with fantastic players. Didier has done a fantastic job. Congratulations to them. I don't think it's right, especially when you lose, to speak about the officials."

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Kaveh Solhekol and Rob Dorsett analyse England's World Cup quarter-final defeat to France

Analysis: Referee performance under scrutiny

Sky Sports News' Kaveh Solhekol in Qatar:

"From early on, England fans were not happy with the referee.

"For France's first goal, there appeared to be a clear foul on Saka. On the second penalty, surely Theo Hernandez should have got a red card for that because he wasn't trying to get the ball.

"And everyone sitting around me couldn't believe Griezmann didn't receive a red card. How many fouls did he make?

"And why did the referee need to use VAR so often? Some of the decisions should have been a clear-cut.

"And why was a referee from Brazil refereeing this game? I presume that he hasn't taken charge of many games with French and English players.

"I thought the referee's performance was questionable."

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