Tournament specialist Harry Maguire is king among defenders in Dream Team World Cup
FANS in other countries probably find it curious that Harry Maguire is one of the first names on the team sheet for England at this World Cup.
More than a few England supporters feel the same.
After all, the 29-year-old has played just 280 minutes of Premier League football this season, with Manchester United undeniably benefiting from a change a personnel at the back.
Last season was the worst of Maguire’s career from an individual perspective as a litter of individual errors were ruthlessly pounced upon by pundits and social media critics alike.
To some extent he was made the scapegoat for the Red Devils’ collective defensive woes but there can be no doubt his individual form at club level has fallen off a cliff in the last year.
Maguire has been solid for England in Qatar so far[/caption]
And yet there has seemingly never been a doubt in Gareth Southgate’s mind that the Old Trafford benchwarmer is the right man to lead the Three Lions’ defence in Qatar.
It’s evident by now that England’s head coach will remain loyal to his favourite players if they perform well enough in the international arena.
Jordan Pickford, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw have all been regular starters even when their club form has dipped, with Maguire’s current situation perhaps the most extreme instance yet.
Crucially though, Southgate is yet to be punished for this approach.
Pickford, Sterling and Shaw all responded brilliantly to shows of faith and the same could be said for Maguire so far this winter.
A relevant measure of this: the centre-back is currently Dream Team World Cup’s outright best defender!
Swimming in Dream Team World Cup points[/caption]
Maguire provided an assist against Iran, claimed the Star Man award on top of a clean sheet against USA, and kept Wales at bay in the final group game.
Add in 7+ ratings in all three fixtures and his tally adds up to 25 points.
Granted, his closest rivals, Jordi Alba (22 pts) and Alex Sandro (21 pts), have only played twice at the time of writing but however you spin it, Maguire’s average of 8.3 points-per-game is impressive.
In one sense, his solid showings have come as a surprise but in another sense, perhaps fans shouldn’t have expected anything less.
Maguire has been something of a major tournament specialist under Southgate’s watch.
He was excellent in Russia four years ago where he assisted Harry Kane’s late winner against Tunisia and scored a thumping header of his own against Sweden in the quarter-finals.
He returned from injury in imperious form at Euro 2020 and earned a spot in the Team of the Tournament with England finishing their campaign as beaten finalists.
The knockout stages will ultimately determine how this year’s World Cup is remembered on these shores but the fact is Maguire has once again been one of England’s better players on the big stage (so far).
Players are often criticised for allowing their standards to drop when their country needs them most so surely Maguire deserves plenty of credit for repeatedly producing his best performances at major tournaments?
With England set to face Senegal on Sunday, Dream Team World Cup bosses may well consider backing the Three Lions’ No6 to contribute to another clean sheet.
At £4million he’s a fraction cheaper than Kieran Trippier and John Stones and his ownership of 12% makes him less popular than the Newcastle right-back and the aforementioned Shaw.
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