Harry Maguire vindicates Gareth Southgate faith as England handed reality check | Football
Harry Maguire has not won too many man-of-the-match awards of late. In fact, he’s hardly kicked a ball for Manchester United.
For England, however, he’s always been a reassuring presence and thank goodness he is because they would have been lost without him tonight.
Maguire was everywhere in his own penalty box – heading, kicking and battling, England’s ungainly lump of defensive rock. A few months ago such a statement would have been laughed out of town after some lumbering performances in an England shirt after he’d first lost his place at United.
But some players come into their own on the big stage. Maguire has shone for his country at two previous tournaments and without his presence here, chucking himself at every ball, England were lost.
He came off ill against Iran and looked to have pulled something late on at the Al Bayt Stadium but plugged away, determined to see through his shut-out. John Stones next to him was good but Maguire almost faultless, an amazing display from a defender who has played just once in the Premier League since September but who vindicated Gareth Southgate’s faith in him here,
England were under the cosh and every time you grimaced, thinking Christian Pulisic or Weston McKennie would put them ahead, Maguire was there with a saving block or tackle, throwing his head in at all manner of unnatural angles to keep his team on level terms.
England fans looked bored in the stands and they had every right to, it was stiflingly dull at times and the introduction of Jordan Henderson with 21 minutes left only made frustrated supporters even more grumpy. It felt as if Southgate was going for safety, turning to tried and tested to shore the game up, make sure we don’t lose it.
The fact he introduced fans’ favourite Jack Grealish at the same time meant at least there was some creative spark as England’s attack had just not worked for most of this match.
Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling were shadows of the players they had been against Iran but the USA stayed in their shape and tried to win it when they could.
It was too perfect to imagine Monday’s opening win could be rehashed here.
While England had the lion’s share of possession, the US were more efficient and should have won the game: Pulisic hitting the crossbar and McKennie squandering a fine chance.
The rest of the time Maguire threw himself at anything and anyone that moved and that approach at least prevented England losing what rapidly became a very loseable encounter. Who’d have thought we’d have been watching the second group game against the unheralded US through our fingers?
The jeers began as England passed it about at the back rather than go all-out for a winner. Be in no doubt, this was a reality check for England’s hopes of winning the trophy.
But thanks to Maguire, it’s a draw not a loss, take that everyone as it looked like one of those nights. He may not be Erik ten Hag’s cup of tea but his country needs him.
MORE : England struggle to USA stalemate in underwhelming World Cup showing
MORE : Gary Neville highlights Gareth Southgate mistake as England fail to beat USA at the World Cup
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