Harry Maguire has given England fans so much

WEMBLEY – The amount of noise when a player’s name is read out by the Wembley Stadium announcer is not a bad measure for the current England supporter mood. Not an exact science, but call it an unofficial barometer. The squeals of man-of-the-people Jack Grealish throughout the European Championship 2020, for example, continued last night every time England’s best striker touched the ball against the Ivory Coast.

The decibels for Declan Rice quickly capture Grealish. Now take a moment to digest the incomprehensible reaction to Harry Maguire. The center-back in the heart of England’s race for a World Cup semi-final and European Championship final bulged loudly when his name was announced during the warm-up. Still higher as the starting line-ups were read out shortly before kick-off.

He was then bubbled as the ball was played back to him from the kick-off, and a few more times before the bubble finally, thankfully, ebbed out after the first few minutes. And for what? Not to play particularly well for Manchester United recently? What should go through Maguire’s mind when he, a player who has barely set foot in England for five years, hears it at Wembley?

It’s probably a bit of a joke, fans egg on other fans. Let’s buh over the out of shape Manchester United player. But if England’s manager Gareth Southgate is proud to uplift players, it’s a hell of a way to get one down, which except disaster should start at the World Cup in Qatar in eight months.

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After making 10 changes to the team that started in the win against Switzerland on Saturday, Southgate said he wanted to see players with one point to prove. He has recently started talking about players being able to handle the “weight” of the English jersey, about how he knows the players he chooses can play at a high level, but it’s about how they play with the weight of a nation on their shoulders. .

There are players that he is already almost certain will be in the World Cup start XI. Maguire, for one. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Declan Rice, Jordan Pickford. One by Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell. One by Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier. But there will be holes and damage. Big tournaments rarely go smoothly.

We can only hope that nothing happens to Sterling. There is something about playing for England that gets Sterling going. Not always a guaranteed starter for Manchester City. If Southgate is talking about a weight for the jersey, Sterlings should be made of feathers.

He played with ease again towards the Ivory Coast. Excellent, skilled work on the left side before sending the ball across the six-yard box between goalkeeper and last defender so Ollie Watkins could score his second goal from England.

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Which was great for Watkins, but unfortunately for the Aston Villa striker, he is not pushing him closer to the English starting line-up in a match that really matters with captain Kane leading. Kane could lose a leg and probably still start ahead of Ollie Watkins.

And then Sterling was up and running again: a drive by the Ivory Coast defense, a left-footed drive. The initial attempt was saved by Badra Ali Sangare, but Grealish sent the rebound back to Sterling and he put it away.

At the time, Ivory Coast captain Serge Aurier had been sent off for two yellow cards. In a vaguely surreal moment, Grealish seemed to be appealing to Judge Erik Lambrechts to let Aurier stay. There were 60 minutes left to play and Southgate needed an edge for the match to test its players.

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That edge was gone, but in the first 40 minutes, while Ivory Coast had started sharply, Jude Bellingham, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder, continued to push for Southgate to trust him despite his age. He hit the post early in the first half after sneaking through Ivory Coast’s defense, and later, when England had the extra man, entertained Bellingham as No. 10.

And Declan Rice continued to be Declan Rice. Impeccably one of the best players on the field. The invisible man of 150 million pounds. Always there to receive a passport. Always there to protect the defense.

Especially his defensive discipline is phenomenal. Take this moment in the eighth minute. England had players committed forward and left-back Tyrick Mitchell was one of them as Ivory Coast won the ball and a break was underway.

Rice had patiently watched all this unfold, had positioned himself precisely, could not have timed his race better to intercept using an innate instinct that could not be learned. From danger to dangerous.

You suspect that if Rice was on a sinking ship, he would be the last person on the life rafts. That if there was no one left, he would let Maguire survive on the broken boat while he froze to death in the water, his last thought before hypothermia made him wonder why he could hear people bubbling loudly.

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