England are not going to this year’s World Cup “to come back in the group stages”, says FA technical director Dan Ashworth.
At the 2014 tournament England failed to win a match and were eliminated at the group stage, while they lost to Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
Ashworth says he wants the team to “inspire the nation” in Russia.
He added to BBC Sport: “Is it impossible for England to win the World Cup? No, it isn’t.”
Despite the senior team’s failure to prosper at the big events – the last semi-final appearance coming at Euro ’96 which they hosted – England’s youth teams have had a recent period of success.
The Under-17 and Under-20 teams both won their respective World Cups last year, while the Under-19 squad captured the 2017 European Championship. England’s women’s team finished third at the 2015 World Cup.
The U17 team begin their 2018 European Championship campaign against Israel at Chesterfield on Friday.
“It’s promising, but until we start competing at the latter stages of tournaments at senior level I won’t deem this programme to be a success,” Ashworth said.
“Ultimately that’s what we get judged on, the success of male and female senior teams.
“But why not, why can’t an England team win a World Cup in 2022 and 2023 [women’s] and who knows before? We’ve got Russia only weeks away and we’re going to go there and attack that one as well.”
England were unbeaten in winning their World Cup qualifying group, with eight wins and two draws, conceding only three goals in their 10 matches.
“There isn’t a set ‘we must get to round X or Y’ for it to be a success,” Ashworth added of this summer’s finals.
“It’s a knockout tournament, which is always really difficult because you can get to a certain stage, be a bit unlucky but play well, a refereeing decision, a sending off, a bad day at the office and you go out of a tournament earlier than you hoped or expected. So there isn’t a set ‘we must reach that round’ but we want to inspire the nation, we want to inspire our supporters.”
Asked whether Gareth Southgate’s position as manager would be in jeopardy if England failed to advance beyond the group stages, Ashworth said: “We haven’t got into that level of detail.
“Gareth’s got a contract through to 2020 – we and he hope he’s still here to lead us into what is pretty much a home Euros now in 2020.”
Wembley will host seven Euro 2020 matches, including the semi-finals and final, as one of 12 host venues across Europe.
‘Lessons have been learned’
Ashworth said there were “things I would have done differently” relating to Mark Sampson, who was sacked as England women’s manager in September following evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.
“There are some quite strict HR and legal policies looking at various different parts of a person’s previous career that I wasn’t privy to during that particular time,” Ashworth said.
“When we were made aware of them obviously we had a slightly different decision to make, that was accelerated quite quickly through to [FA chief executive] Martin (Glenn) and everybody knows the outcome from there.
“What I would like to say is that everybody has said – from Eni and everybody involved – lessons have been learned but let’s draw a line under it, everybody move forward and really look forward to the future as players, coaches and teams.”
‘We have made advances in a number of our development teams’
Asked about the FA’s ambition for a BME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) coach to be integrated into all England teams, Ashworth said: “We’ve got 16 national teams, you can’t just land 16 guest coaches into 16 teams.
“We’ve got an incredibly important World Cup coming up, it’s not fair on a coach just to chuck somebody into the mix at the cauldron.
“We will look at it over a number of months, we have made advances in a number of our development teams, a number of our full-time positions, Justin Cochrane has just joined us from Tottenham as head coach of the Under-15s.
“It’s something you can’t just solve instantly – you need to think carefully about who, when, where, but it’s something that’s very important to us and we will help solve the problem.”