Former England striker Ian Wright believes Gareth Southgate’s side still have plenty of ground to make up on the world’s top teams.
The Three Lions, who have lifted the nation with an unlikely run to the World Cup semi-finals, lost their third-place play-off against Belgium 2-0 in St Petersburg and Wright was scathingly honest in his post-match assessment.
Thomas Meunier gave Belgium an early lead and although England delivered an improved second-half display, Eden Hazard sealed victory for his side with eight minutes remaining.
“You hear Harry (Kane) saying there that we’re not far away, I think we just need to look at the players Belgium have got and look at what they’re capable of doing,” former Arsenal striker Wright told ITV.
“We’re not close to them. We’re nowhere near them. But we have made progress under Gareth up to this point.”
Former England full-back Lee Dixon feels the Three Lions are clearly a better, more organised side than they were two years ago, but still lack quality in key areas.
He told ITV: “We do need a central midfield player like (Kevin) De Bruyne or (Eden) Hazard, who ran the game for me today.
“But if they’re not there, you’ve got to try and introduce them and play them in club football, which we’re not getting them doing at the moment, the youngsters.
“No doubt, we are progressing and we’re better than we were, so that’s all you can look at. The next tournament is two years away and we’ve got a lot more development to do.”
Roy Keane agreed world-class players were in short supply all over the world, not just in England.
“There’s only a few of them to go round and Belgium are certainly lucky to have two of them,” the former Manchester United captain told ITV. “I agree with the lads, there has been great progress from England.
“But we also saw there today there is an awful long way to go for this group of players because that extra bit of quality you need to win these bigger games (is lacking) and we saw the gap in quality between England’s midfield and Belgium’s.”
Both Gary Neville and Wright believe Three Lions captain Kane’s performance levels dropped significantly in England’s last three matches.
“We couldn’t speak more highly of him during the tournament because of what he is, but he’s not been himself for three games now. He doesn’t look fit to me at all.”
Wright added: “With Harry at the moment, he’s out on the left, out on the right – he’s out of the box and really we want him right in there and he didn’t seem to be able to. Whether that’s because he’s injured, I don’t know what it was.”