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Friday, June 14, 2024

England: Gareth Southgate dismisses defensive fears for Euro 2024 after Harry Maguire injury blow

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Gareth Southgate is confident his back-up defenders are ready to fill the void left by Harry Maguire, with Marc Guehi expected to be given the opportunity to impress tonight.Maguire was yesterday cut from Southgate’s final 26-man squad for the European Championship after failing to make sufficient progress in recovering from a calf injury, leaving the manager without one of his most trusted and experienced players.Guehi is the leading choice to partner John Stones in Germany, and the pair are expected to be feature prominently in tonight’s final warm-up friendly against Iceland, with Lewis Dunk ruled out through injury.Southgate has, though, also been impressed with Ezri Konsa, while Joe Gomez is the other contender to replace Maguire in the side.The manager accepts England will be different without Maguire’s “big presence” and says they will have to adapt, particularly at defending set-pieces.“All the centre-backs in the squad are ready,” Southgate said yesterday. “They’ve all had experience with us. Marc is the one that’s had more opportunities with us. We’ve seen what he can bring for a while.“Look, we’ll be different. We’ll miss Harry’s aerial presence, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s more speed in those [other] guys, so everybody has different attributes.Opportunity knocks: Marc Guehi is the top contender to replace Harry Maguire in England’s defence (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)“You saw Kobbie Mainoo doing a pretty good job from corners for Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, for example, so it isn’t just about height, you can have tall guys that don’t mark well, so there’s a lot involved in that, but clearly there’s a big presence that’s going to be missing.“We’ll have to find different strategies, different ways of working, Harry’s consistently been one of our main first contact from set-plays, but we have got other options within that, we have got other opportunities to be creative in our set-plays as well.”Southgate opted against picking Maguire after learning the 31-year-old would not be fit until the knockouts in the “best-case scenario”, but Manchester United team-mate Luke Shaw is more advanced in his recovery, with the manager hopeful the left-back can play some part in England’s second group game — against Denmark on June 20.James Maddison and Jack Grealish were the other high-profile casualties yesterday, along with youngsters Curtis Jones, Jarrad Branthwaite, James Trafford and Jarell Quansah, although the latter has remained with the squad in case of injuries at the back tonight.The omission of Grealish is understood to have caused particular surprise in the camp, but Southgate has defended the call.“There will always be an argument that somebody can rightly say, ‘Jack could have given us something different’,” the manager said. “So does [Eberechi] Eze, so does Anthony [Gordon].All the centre-backs in the squad are readyEngland boss Gareth Southgate“We could not take them all. The senior boys who have gone are big characters, but we still have big characters and guys who will emerge in the coming weeks.”Declan Rice admitted he was “gutted” to lose his two closest friends in the squad in Maddison and Grealish.“They came round the group, gave everyone hugs and wished everyone all the best,” the Arsenal midfielder said. “I said to Madders and Jack I love them both.”Aaron Ramsdale will start in goal this evening, while Mainoo is pushing for minutes in midfield. Jude Bellingham will not feature.

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