Gareth Southgate insists that Harry Maguire has the “total belief” of everyone in the England camp after their loss to Denmark.
England came crashing back down to earth after their win over Belgium, as a Christian Eriksen penalty gave Denmark a 1-0 win over Southgate’s men.
One of the biggest talking points was the sending off of Maguire, who received two yellow cards in the first half.
It forced Southgate into a tactical reshuffle, and once Denmark had taken the lead shortly after Maguire’s dismissal, it was tough for the Three Lions to get back into the game.
However, Southgate says he saw plenty of “resiliece” from his side, also denying that Denmark should have even been awarded the penalty that led to the winner.
“I was very proud of the performance,” he told Sky Sports. “I thought we were excellent with 11 men and causing them all sorts of problems down our right-hand side.
“The sending off alters everything and the penalty. It’s a foul on Kyle Walker and I don’t see the foul at all. The less said the better.
“We showed resilience and showed a great example of how to play with 10 pragmatically, and when to press. Their keeper made an amazing save to keep it at 1-0.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys in the last 10 days, they are learning and improving. We’ve had any number of changes to our preparation and showed resilience.”
Southgate defends Maguire; explains Grealish decision
Inevitably, the focus soon turned to Maguire, who has endured a difficult few months both on and off the pitch.
Despite the criticism that has come the defender’s way, Southgate says he remains a big part of England’s plans and will get back on track.
“The first yellow was a challenge he didn’t need to make and it put him on edge,” he said. “The second one is an interception and it just take him.
“He’s a great player and massive part of what we do. He’s got a lot of sticks thrown his way, he’s got our full support. He just needs the reassurance that we have total belief in him.
“He’s had to deal with all sorts, and from some people who should know better. When you’re a bit older you can rationalise it, and move forward from it.
“He’s experiencing it from the first time really, he’s had setbacks but his profile has changed in the last couple of years because of the club he plays for and the success he’s had with us. He’s got to keep going and the tide will turn.”
Maguire is not the only member of the England setup to come under scrutiny, with the result raising questions of Southgate himself.
One criticism made by his detractors was his decision not to bring on Jack Grealish. However, the England boss says the fact they were playing with 10 men was a factor.
“We had to go with speed in the wide areas and athleticism in the wide areas because with 10 you’ve got to do such a shift, Mason and Marcus did that really well. They defended well and gave us a threat and Mason [Mount] nearly scored with the header.
“Getting Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] and Jadon [Sancho] on, Harry [Kane] was winning every header and winning fouls which meant we could get set pieces into the box. The red card threw a lot of plans out of the box unfortunately.”
Do England have a problem with discipline?
Maguire was not the only player to be sent off against Denmark. Reece James was also shown a red card after the full-time whistle for dissent.
The Chelsea full-back was making his full debut, but it ended on a sour note. However, Southgate insists the focus should be on what he has done well.
“That’s a lesson he’s got to learn. He had an incredible debut, he’s impressed me all week. Until that moment he’d showed great maturity.
“It’s ended up something that shouldn’t have happened but for the overall week he’s made a positive impression.”
Asked if England have a problem with their discipline after the two red cards and a number of recent issues, Southgate admitted there are lessons to be learned.
“It’s an obvious question we’re going to be asked. We’ve put ourselves in unnecessary positions off the pitch.
“The reds for Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire here, one yellow justified, one not so sure.
“We’ve got to learn from it because if you go down to 10, historically that means we’re out, especially if you’re doing it for an hour.”