Gareth Southgate hailed Harry Maguire as a “giant in both boxes” after seeing the defender repay the faith that he could deliver at the highest level.
Maguire has quickly established himself as a cornerstone of the English cause in Russia, turning in assured performances at the back and proving himself a menace in the opposition box.
Most of his best work at corners and set-pieces has been in service of others but the 25-year-old grabbed his own moment in the spotlight in Samara – leaping to power home England’s opener in the 2-0 win over Sweden.
Nobody has yet managed to find an answer to the Leicester man’s aerial prowess, much to the delight of his Three Lions boss.
“Maguire has been a giant in both boxes right throughout the tournament,” said Southgate.
“He’s getting his bonce on everything, isn’t he? We’ve scored set-play goals because of him up to this point and today he’s got the one he deserved.”
While Southgate has been a steady champion of Maguire – selecting him ahead of more decorated options such as Gary Cahill and Phil Jones – he is not convinced the centre-half always shared his confidence.
His performance on debut against Lithuania, the final game of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign, was a modest one but Southgate gently pushed him to aim higher.
He recalled: “His first game…he talked about just being desperate not to make a mistake.
“I remember saying to him before the next game ‘OK, how about now we try and be as good as we might be?’ because I think he’s a super-talented player.
“When I was watching him during the season, I was so keen that he stayed fit because this was a stage that I was certain he could show he could play at. I’m not sure he’s always believed that.
“His use of the ball is as good as any centre-back in the tournament. Hopefully he’s gaining belief from the performances at this level.”
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