HARRY MAGUIRE produced his finest performance in an England shirt as England booked their World Cup quarter-final place against Sweden, reaching last eight for the first time since 2006.
The ex-Blade and lifelong Sheffield United fan, who only won his first cap last October, was dominant in both boxes with a powerhouse performance. It won rave reviews after a gripping match against Colombia in Moscow decided by only England’s second victory via a penalty shoot-out in a major tournament and their first in a World Cup.
Supporters of his club, Leicester City, might not approve but the 25-year-old left-centre back in England’s three man defensive line-up alongside another ex-Blade and fan Kyle Walker and Barnsley-born John Stones, has never hidden where his heart lies. After the match as England players returned to the pitch to celebrate with delirious fans, he picked out a Sheffield United flag and posed for pictures with it and Blades supporters.
Ian Wright, ITV pundit and former Arsenal and England striker, said: “I remember watching him when he played for Sheffield United and he would get the ball and go through the whole team.
“Sheffield United fans were cheering and they would big him up, the way he passed the ball and ran with the ball. He does it at this level, tried the runs out the back, runs through midfield and take chances with his passes. We need that.”
Former England captain Alan Shearer, speaking on the BBC, chose Maguire as his man of the match. “I was impressed with Maguire tonight.“They [Colombia] didn’t offer a lot going forward but he did very well in bringing the ball out and sliding those passes through.”
Former England manager Glenn Hoddle described Maguire as “sensational defensively and with the ball.” While Gary Neville the ex-England and Manchester United defender, said: “He deserved a special mention. Sometimes you think about a performance where someone goes from being ‘Are you sure about him? Is he going to be good enough?’ to being a centre-back with a performance like that.
“It was absolutely brilliant, the courage and stepping in to midfield was absolutely fantastic.”
England boss Gareth Southgate is convinced that the learning experience from this rollercoaster match is invaluable if the national team is to change attitude and perception. “For the belief of this group of players, and groups of players to come, it was a really important moment,” he said after the match finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.
“Not just winning the shoot-out but having to suffer at the end of the game in a stadium that was five-to-one Colombian fans and felt like an away fixture. To come through all of that. We’ve spoken to the players about writing their own stories. Tonight they showed they don’t have to conform to what’s gone before. They have created their own history and I don’t want to go home yet."
Harry Kane, remains on course to win the Golden Boot after giving England the lead from the penalty spot in the 57th minute, his sixth goal of the tournament. But with the match all but won Colombia levelled three minutes into added time through Yerry Mina.
The South Americans had struggled to break England down for long periods of the match but in extra time Southgate’s side faded and Colombia looked the most likely to score.
In the end it was settled on penalty kicks but not before more high drama. Given England's woeful record when put on the spot supporters in Russia and at home feared the worst. Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson missed his kick enabling Colombia to take a 3-2 advantage. Then Colombian Mateus Uribe hit the woodwork and Kieran Trippier stepped up to level at 3-3. England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford followed that with a terrific save to thwart Carlos Bacca before Tottenham’s Eric Dier tucked away the winning penalty to make it 4-3.
Kane said: “We’ve ticked a lot of boxes here so far. Can we qualify through the group? Yes, we did that quite comfortably. Then can we win a knockout game? Can we win a shootout? This will give us more belief than ever and the fans more belief than ever back home. We’re enjoying it, they’re enjoying it. We’re just looking forward to the next one.”
England face Sweden on Saturday in Samara for the chance to meet either Croatia or World Cup hosts Russia in the semi-finals.