England's Harry Maguire complains to the referee during the group G match between England and Panama at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod , Russia, Sunday, June 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Victor Caivano)

In The News International South Africa

England’s Harry Maguire has become a game-changer at the World Cup

MOSCOW, Russia, July 10 – Harry Maguire’s versatility, pace and ability to pounce on to goal-scoring chances for England are helping him to quickly become a well-known name at the World Cup in Russia.

The agile defender has shown himself to have good speed with strong technique on the ball and confidence going forward, all the while serving as a capable part of his team’s three-man rearguard.

Yet, as with so many who are part of the Three Lions’ success story so far at the World Cup it is the 24-year old’s modest and likeable personality that is winning over the nation.

Maguire turned up to his first England training session with his boots in a bin-liner last August, and showed his good-humoured side with a tweet after the quarterfinal win over Sweden, a nod to his interesting choice of kit-bag.

He had captioned a photo of himself talking with his partner Fern Hawkins, which has become a bona fide meme, suggesting she ask the neighbours to put the bins out this week.

“That was all my own work,” Maguire grinned in an interview with Fifa TV.

“I’ve been happy,” the Leicester City star said. “First and foremost, from Gareth putting me in the starting XI this year, to going out for that first game, it gave me great confidence and great belief to go out and do the things that I’m good at.

“Obviously after the first game when the nerves were high and the pressure was on, it became easier.

“I feel like I’ve settled down into the tournament. I’ll keep growing and growing, I’ve been really happy with my contributions so far, so hopefully they can continue.”

His contributions have been game-changing. His powerful header to put England ahead against Sweden triggered a change in the dynamic: he and his Three Lions teammates were able to compose themselves after the tense opening exchanges.

“The adrenaline was really, really high,” Maguire explained. “It was an unbelievable moment, a really proud moment for myself. My first England goal – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We’d had a nervy start maybe, early in the game, and the goal really settled us down and then we deserved the win.”

Maguire cut his teeth in England’s second tier with Sheffield United and signed for Leicester, where he played every minute in the English Premier League last season, from Hull City.

From that first England camp where he admitted his mother was less than impressed to see him with a binbag – she sent her son a text afterwards, ‘What’s with the bags?’ – to scoring in a World Cup quarterfinal, one thing has not changed: England’s team spirit.

“It’s massive for us,” Maguire said. “As a group we’re really together and the spirit is really good. Ever since the first camp that we came on, Gareth reiterated how important it is that as a group we stick together through thick and thin.

“I think at the moment we’re doing that really well. As a camp we’re really happy and we’re taking that attitude off the pitch, onto the field.” (ANA)

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