Harry Maguire made his highly anticipated return from injury against the Czech Republic as England secured top spot in Group D. The victory means that Gareth Southgate’s side will continue playing at Wembley, as they prepare to face one of France, Hungary, Germany or Portugal in the round of 16.
Maguire came into the tournament with doubts over his fitness, with some pundits even calling for the defender not to be picked in the squad, but recovered quicker than expected and was able to play part in the group stages.
Tyrone Mings filled in for the Manchester United captain for the two games he missed, and truth be told, the Aston Villa defender didn’t do too bad in some areas. Mings was a colossus in the air and was secure against Croatia and Scotland but left a lot to be desired with the ball at his feet.
Maguire, despite only just making his return, offered all that in abundance plus more. It looked like he had never been injured when he stepped onto the Wembley turf.
Harry Maguire played more passes into the final third  than any other England player vs. #CZE
So good to have him back. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ZAxmTWPlRF
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 22, 2021
The 28-year-old is England’s most assured centre-back with the ball at his feet and he proved it again against the Czech Republic. Maguire was able to break the lines of the visitor’s compact midfield on numerous occasions, allowing the midfielders to run into space created by his opening pass.
Maguire’s partnership with Luke Shaw is also a big plus for England. The pair are a constant double-act for Manchester United. Luke Shaw is the silent creator from the left-hand side for his club, with Maguire also often pushing up to create an overload.
Gareth Southgate’s pragmatic system doesn’t allow Maguire to push as high as he usually does under Solskjaer, but should it ever be needed, he is far more comfortable doing it than any of England’s other central defenders.
John Stones’ late substitution is a cause for concern if it’s down to injury. Tyrone Mings, who replaced him, played on the left side whilst Maguire moved to take up Stones’ vacated position. Maguire is at his best on the left side and possibly more importantly when he has Luke Shaw next to him.
It’s vital for England that Maguire starts every game between now and the end of the tournament if they want to give themselves the best chance of going to the final.