EPL

Kane proud of apologetic Maguire for playing on 'one leg' in Germany nightmare

By Sports Desk September 27, 2022

England captain Harry Kane was "proud" of Harry Maguire for playing through injury towards the end of Monday's draw with Germany despite it being a nightmare match for the defender.

Centre-back Maguire has become a much-maligned figure at Manchester United, with his performances routinely called into question over the past 12 months or so.

That ultimately led to him being dropped by new manager Erik ten Hag in August after United lost their first two games of the new Premier League season – he has not started since in the top flight and the Red Devils have won four matches on the bounce.

England manager Gareth Southgate backed Maguire at the start of this international window, suggesting he would stake his reputation on the defender's selection before starting him in both Nations League games despite previous vows to pick players on form.

Serie A-winning Milan defender Fikayo Tomori was left out of the squad entirely on Monday while Maguire went on to endure a nightmare, with his individual errors contributing to England finding themselves 2-0 down.

England remarkably fought back to go 3-2 up with three goals in 12 minutes before Kai Havertz's second rescued a point for Germany, and while the focus was already on Maguire – who was later spotted limping through the mixed zone – Kane praised his character.

"Any individual mistake, you're going to be gutted. But we are a team, we will get behind each other," Kane said.

"They [Maguire and goalkeeper Nick Pope] will learn from [their errors] and they'll move on. They have been great for us every time they put the shirt on.

"H [Maguire] had a pretty decent injury there at the end, where he played another five, 10 minutes, on almost one leg.

"Great character from him [to keep playing], I'm really proud of him for that."

After the match, Maguire said sorry to supporters on Instagram following his errors.

The first was a poor pass out from the back that was intercepted by Jamal Musiala, whom he then clumsily fouled in the area. Ilkay Gundogan scored the penalty.

For the second goal, Maguire was robbed of possession – again, Musiala was his nemesis here – up the pitch and Germany sprung a rapid counter-attack that was rounded off by a gorgeous Havertz finish.

"Mistakes are part of the game, I apologise," Maguire wrote.

"Great fightback and spirit to get us back into the game by the lads. Take the positives and look forward to Qatar. The tough times will make us stronger."

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    Belgium have lost form at a terrible time at the World Cup, with their place in the last 16 at risk against Croatia, but Eden Hazard still believes in their quality.

    The Red Devils were out of sorts in beating Canada 1-0 and were duly punished in their second match against Morocco, losing 2-0.

    That defeat ended a 13-game unbeaten run in group-stage games at the finals, although they have not lost consecutive such matches since a sequence of three in a row across the 1982 and 1986 tournaments.

    Another reverse against Croatia – who impressed in crushing Canada – would see them eliminated, while a draw may not be enough either.

    "We have to do better, we cannot deliver the performance we want [right now]," said captain Hazard, who also skippered Belgium to the semi-finals four years ago.

    "We have to show it on the pitch, that is what counts. We still have quality in the group and are here to win.

    "We lack confidence because of that last pass and that last dribble. We have to regain that confidence."

    That lack of confidence is particularly evident in the final third, with Belgium netting with just one of 19 shots. That conversion rate of 5.3 per cent is their lowest at a finals since converting only three of 93 attempts in 1982 (3.2 per cent).

    Concerningly, Croatia have had no such issues of late, with their four goals against Canada tying their World Cup record for a single match (also vs Cameroon in 2014).

    The 2018 finalists have also won four of their past five group-stage matches, drawing the other, and their only defeats to fellow European nations in 10 World Cup meetings have been to France – in both 1998 and 2018.

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    Croatia – Andrej Kramaric

    Kramaric was in inspired form against Canada, scoring twice before being substituted 17 minutes from time when he surely would have backed himself for a hat-trick. It was only the second World Cup brace by a Croatia player (also Mario Mandzukic vs Cameroon in 2014).

    Belgium – Romelu Lukaku

    Lukaku has appeared for only nine minutes as a substitute so far at this tournament, but it is surely time for Belgium to turn to their main man. He has scored all three of the Red Devils' goals across their past two meetings with Croatia – both of which they have won.

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    This is one of the most finely balanced matches of the tournament so far, according to the supercomputer. While Belgium are marginal favourites, given a 37.2 per cent chance of winning, Croatia are just behind on 36.5 per cent.

    Does that make a draw most likely? That result, which suits Croatia far better than Belgium, is rated at 26.3 per cent.

  • Canada v Morocco: Regragui says high-flying Atlas Lions 'haven't done anything yet' Canada v Morocco: Regragui says high-flying Atlas Lions 'haven't done anything yet'

    Morocco boss Walid Regragui warned his team are "ready to die for it" as they look to secure a last-16 spot at the World Cup and send a Group F heavyweight home.

    The Atlas Lions are on the brink of the second round after holding Croatia to a goalless draw and topping that result with a 2-0 victory against Belgium. They have recorded successive clean sheets in a World Cup for the first time since 1986, the only past finals where they went past the group stage.

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    "We will face a hard team. They have been warning us a lot about Canada, so don't say that Canada is easy now. Canada are a great team, and we must respect them, so we can get a good result. The World Cup is not easy. We must fight towards the last minute, so that we can win."

    Canada coach John Herdman has described his team's final outing at this World Cup as "a huge game". They were edged out 1-0 by Belgium before being picked apart 4-1 by Croatia, with the focus now on returning home with a consolation victory, which would be the country's first on the World Cup stage.

    "We came here to make history," said Herdman. "This last game is about getting a result and winning for Canada, and really making this country believe that we're in the right direction for 2026."

    Morocco have not lost in three previous meetings with Canada in all competitions (W2 D1), most recently enjoying a 4-0 friendly win in October 2016.

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    Captain Saiss made 11 clearances out of a team total of 21 against Belgium and made a tremendous nuisance of himself at Morocco's attacking free-kicks, getting a flick to Abdelhamid Sabiri's delivery to put the underdogs in front. He also won four out of four aerial duels, leading by impressive example.

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    "It's been 11 years of work in this country, and I have been pioneering for a long period of time. 

    "You will not find anyone as passionate as I am about this programme, or about these players or about the staff. 

    "You will not find anyone as passionate, who wants to take the company to that next level. You'll not meet anyone that's experienced this moment with this team, and the learnings that I'll take from this to take into the next one. 

    "The one thing you've seen from us is we've always come back strong. In [the Women's World Cup in] 2015, we finished sixth.

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    "I'll take that. Because if that's our foundation, we've got a great four years ahead, and I can't wait to get after it."

    Canada have not beaten Morocco in the teams' three previous meetings (D1 L2), and they suffered a comprehensive 4-0 defeat when they last faced the Atlas Lions in a 2016 friendly.

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