Harry Maguire has quickly become England's newest World Cup cult hero

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Won everything in the air: Harry Maguire.

Gareth Southgate’s son wears an England shirt with Harry Maguire’s name and number on the back.

That, in a nutshell, tells you everything you need to know about Leicester’s lion-like centre-back who was a colossus during the Colombia game and is fast-becoming a cult hero among fans.

The 25-year-old, who stands at 6 ft 4 in tall and has a huge 100kg frame, would not look out of place on the back row for England Rugby and makes great use of his physical prowess.

His man-mountain display on Tuesday night – which included winning 12 aerial duels, the most by a defender at this World Cup inclusive of extra-time so far – showcased his dominance and stature in what was a physical contest, marred by play-acting, time-wasting and dissent.

Maguire may be short of a turn of pace or the technicality of a modern-day defender playing the ball out of the back with ease, even so, throughout this tournament he has looked like a veteran international.

Indeed, it makes a mockery out of the fact he only has nine England caps to his name so far.

He has adhered himself to Southgate’s son, the manager himself and the masses through his wholehearted commitment and style, something England fans will always applaud and support in their droves.

In essence, supporters look at the former Sheffield United and Hull City defender as if he is one of their own out there, living out their dream.

Let’s not forget, that two years ago during Euro 2016, Maguire was in the stands watching on with friends during the match against Slovakia.

That has definitely given him the perspective of what it means to wear the jersey.

The Foxes star, who has been linked with a big-money move this summer to one of the Premier League‘s big six, has formed a strong partnership with John Stones within a three-man central defence, also including Kyle Walker.

The robustness of Maguire has actually been the perfect foil for Stones, with the Manchester City defender certainly more cultured and growing into this tournament after a difficult season at club level.

He was commanding, composed and assured for the most part against Colombia, keeping Radamel Falcao quiet (footballing wise that is) in an all-action display that really showed what he is all about. Stones made 10 clearances, three tackles, three interceptions and won the lion’s share of his aerial battles.

Importantly, he threaded passes neatly into the midfield, supplying Kieran Trippier often and even looking further left for Ashley Young, boasting a pass completion rate of 90.7 per cent in total among his 103 touches.

The pace of right-sided defender Walker is a blessing for the two traditional centre-backs, though the Sky Blues man has been prone to lapses of concentration.

Better finishing from Juan Cuadrado would have cost England dearly late on, following Walker’s sloppiness in possession, and that was before Yerry Mina’s stoppage-time equaliser.

Even so, the England defence rebuffed plenty of territorial pressure in extra-time from the Colombians and are growing as a force ahead of the Sweden clash.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 03: John Stones, ang3a and Harry Maguire of England celebrate victory during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Colombia and England at Spartak Stadium on July 3, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Moscow memories: John Stones and Harry Maguire celebrate.

Despite the fact Southgate’s men have failed to keep a clean sheet in four matches, at least now there is some talk and praise for the men at the back, given Harry Kane, notably, has made the headlines at the top of the pitch.

While the defence has yet to be tested against significant striking power in full flow, Jordan Pickford’s stellar showing on Tuesday night will have boosted the confidence levels of the defence. They now know they have a young goalkeeper behind them who has not only answered his critics but looks like he is on his way to becoming truly world-class.

England’s performance in the final third was lacking, as was their creativity, but they should take plenty of comfort in the fact their foundation at the back is looking increasingly watertight.

Three Lions fans are ever the optimists but there is no reason not to keep dreaming from this point onwards after finally tasting penalty shootout success.

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England's Jamie Vardy doubtful for Sweden clash with groin strain

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Jamie Vardy is a doubt for England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden with a groin strain.

The 31-year-old made an impressive impact as an 88th-minute substitute in the last-16 clash against Colombia on Tuesday but was conspicuous by his absence from the five spot-kick takers.

However, Press Association Sport understands the Leicester striker sustained a groin complaint.

Vardy had an injection after the match and will now be sweating for his place in Saturday’s quarter-final against the Swedes in Samara.

Southgate said that the dressing room was “like a scene from M*A*S*H” after going the distance in Moscow, where Dele Alli, Ashley Young and Kyle Walker were others that looked in discomfort.

The England manager expects to get a clearer idea about the severity of any issues by Thursday, when the team will hold a training session behind closed doors.

Only eight players trained in the pouring rain at Spartak Zelenogorsk on Wednesday, having only returned to their Repino base at around 6.30am.

Marcus Rashford was the only player to feature against Colombia among the playing group which was outnumbered by staff.

The 20-year-old forward was brought on late in extra time and was not deemed to have done enough to warrant a normal recovery session, which the other players did back at the team hotel.

Fabian Delph has yet to return to camp after heading home for the birth of his third child after the final Group G match against Belgium last Thursday.

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France can benefit from dropping Olivier Giroud while Arsenal target Lucas Torreira is key to Uruguay

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It’s almost gone by in a blur, but 56 games into the 2018 World Cup, Uruguay are set to face France in the first quarter-final.

The disciplined South Americans will attempt to get the better of a French side capable of so much in attack as evidenced in their round of 16 victory.

Here, we look at the tactical nuances of both sides ahead of the encounter at the Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.

URUGUAY’S DEFENSIVE STRUCTURE

Uruguay have only been breached once in four games at this World Cup, boasting the strongest defence of the 32 teams. Key to that is a sturdy spine made up by Fernando Muslera in goal and the two centre-backs Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.

However, Lucas Torreira has proved crucial to their structure in recent outings with Oscar Tabarez opting for a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, utilising a midfield diamond. The defensive midfielder screens in front of the centre-backs without the ball while pushing up into midfield with it.

The experience and tactical understanding of accomplished strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – although the Paris Saint-Germain man may make way for Cristhian Stuani due to injury – comes into play as well as they defend from the front with one pressing the man on the ball while the other supports Rodrigo Bentancur at the tip of the diamond, working to cover passing lanes.

With the formidable Torreira in behind, Uruguay are virtually impenetrable through the middle, forcing teams wide. Their work ethic though sees them shuttle out to the flanks in packs of three to box in a wide player in possession and should they win the ball, one of the strikers are usually well positioned in space for the counter.

For Uruguay’s second goal against Portugal in the round of 16, as soon as they won the ball, Cavani was positioned in space on the left and was on hand to curl in Bentancur’s pass.

DROPPING GIROUD

While Didier Deschamps’ ploy to use Blaise Matuidi on the left is another defensive-minded tweak from a cautious coach, it has brought the best out of Paul Pogba and yielded four goals for his side in the round of 16 clash against Argentina.

However, Matuidi is suspended for this fixture, meaning either Thomas Lemar or Ousmane Dembele should start in his stead, changing the dynamic of the midfield as Pogba will then be shackled to a more holding role with Matuidi not around to support him.

There is another – perhaps more imaginative – way to go though. Steven Nzonzi could play in the double pivot with N’Golo Kante while Pogba operates ahead of them in a three-man midfield. This would however mean dropping Olivier Giroud with Antoine Griezmann playing up front.

Uruguay are largely comfortable dealing with aerial balls and their centre-backs enjoy the physical battle so Giroud may struggle to make an impact. Instead, France could use their quick passing to start wide, shift the ball into the centre from where a winger can be released in the channel between full-back and centre-back.

At that juncture, the cut-back would be on with the likes of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe or Pogba awaiting at the top of the box.

We saw this work well for Benjamin Pavard’s sensational goal against Argentina. Matuidi played Lucas Hernandez through the inside channel before the right-back eventually fired home from the cut-back.

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