Harry Maguire’s timing was wrong in more ways than one. Slamming into Jamal Musiala, he conceded a penalty and reopened the debate; if it was ever closed.
For Gareth Southgate, like many others, the decision is an easy one. The differences are, firstly, that Southgate is England’s manager and his views carry more weight. And secondly, while many others would skip Maguire, Southgate is adamant that he is at the center of his plans.
He described Maguire’s presence as being in the national interest. “I know everyone says he’s important to me, he’s important to us. It’s us. I am not. Why do we choose him? Because he’s one of the players that gives us the best chance of winning. So we really should all want a Harry Maguire who plays regularly and with confidence,” he argued.
Recent England history suggests that Southgate is right. Her promotion to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020 came with Maguire integral and on form. He retains his place in his manager’s affection but not the same level of achievement.
The lumbering bungler who gave Germany the lead on Monday night, the magnet for the cameras that caught his haunted gaze, was the Maguire of many defeats against Manchester United who fell central defender Erik ten Hag, not the lucky charm figure Southgate remembers.
He wrestles with similar problems in other positions; A significant portion of his squad is either out of tune or not in the club squad. However, Maguire is the face of a problem and perhaps the most extreme example of it. “That’s true for some players but he’s the one that everything lands on, which must be a really tough place for him,” Southgate said. “But he shows tremendous character.”
It’s a word he frequently uses in defense of the defender. The character has helped Maguire advance further than many anticipated. He took the detour to the heart of the English rear guard. A predecessor in jersey No. 6, Bobby Moore, excelled at a World Cup at 21. At the same age, Maguire had just completed his third season in the third division with Sheffield United. Raheem Sterling is younger than him and was selected for the 2014 World Cup squad. It would have seemed far-fetched that Maguire would join him four years later.
Monday’s mistake won’t stop Maguire from going to a fourth straight major tournament. Not that his presence at Euro 2016 was noticed by Uefa: he was there as an England fan, not a player.
Perhaps Southgate, who was hardly trimmed to size as a player himself, senses a soul mate. England have not played a semi-final since 1990 without late bloomers Southgate or Maguire being at the heart of the defence.
Maguire has shown before that he can bounce back from disappointment. His 2020 red card against Denmark came amid troubled times. Nine months later, he was called up to the Euro 2020 team.
However, the past year has been a prolonged slump, costing him his place in the United team and perhaps giving Southgate hope for an injury to injury-prone Raphael Varane which could give him a chance to play in anything other than first-team football in the Europa League .
It’s far from the ideal preparation for a World Cup, to say the least, and Maguire’s footballing travails have been compounded by his status as a scapegoat for many. Some perceptions have changed. He was booed by some fans before kick-off at Wembley, while others greeted him with a song after half an hour.
“I think he has the character to get over it because he’s a lad who came to Hull City from Sheffield United, he’s not a smooth one,” Southgate said. “Sometimes there are guys who didn’t have to deal with adversity early in their careers and when it hits them it’s harder to deal with. He’s really like most of us in that he had a lot of obstacles and that shapes your character.”
Maguire has never been the sleekest or the most elegant. He doesn’t look like a natural hurdler. But he plowed his way through many barriers on a career path obstacle course. But if a missed penalty at Euro ’96 was character-building for Southgate, this week’s penalty miss indicated that Harry Maguire’s rebuilding is an ongoing construction project that may not be completed in time for the World Cup.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/harry-maguire-england-world-cup-southgate-b2176371.html Gareth Southgate pinning England’s World Cup hopes on his rebuild job at Harry Maguire