Harry Maguire has insisted anything short of winning the World Cup will be a failure after a major shift in mentality within the England squad.
Maguire was part of the team who reached the semi-finals four years ago, followed by the final of the European Championship, but has seen a change in the mindset of Gareth Southgate’s players, who believe they must win in Qatar.
“That’s the one thing I’d say that’s a lot different from the 2018 squad to this squad, we really believe it is possible,” Maguire said. “I played in 2018 and we got to the semi-final and I think a lot of the lads were happy. You knew that whatever happened in that semi-final you’d go home and be classed as a hero. I think now there’s a belief we’ve got to win this tournament.
“It is a good change in the mentality. Of course, we know how tough it is going to be. I think there are probably five or six teams with the same belief. But in 2018, we probably weren’t one of those. Now we’re one of them.”
Southgate has kept faith with Maguire throughout his turbulent year at Manchester United, where he has lost his place. The player has appeared much more relaxed in the Three Lions shirt during this tournament and has performed at a high level despite a lack of game time at United.
“At Man United I’m under a lot more scrutiny. Everything I do gets analysed. Every pass I make gets analysed,” he said. “Every goal we concede is a defender’s fault and if you’re playing week in, week out as I did for years, the last year hasn’t been good enough. No one came out of the season with plaudits, so it was the general team last season, but this one has been much better.
“The trust that the [England] manager has shown in me, pretty much every game I’ve been available for I’ve played for him and I feel like I’ve never let him down. He’s been brilliant, he’s given me confidence to go out and play and express myself and play to my attributes.
“I don’t think I’ve proved a point. Two years ago I was in the Euros team of the tournament, so I know what I’m capable of. I’m not hiding away from the last year, it’s been difficult, but I always knew and had great belief in myself that I’d find my form and regain my confidence and my focus.
“I’m really happy it’s happened at the biggest stage. I feel good mentally, I feel good physically, I feel fresh.”
England's World Cup schedule
Round of 16
England's quarter-final is at 7pm on Saturday, December 10. They play France, who beat Poland in the second round.
There are two quarter-finals on the day before, at 3pm and 7pm, and another at 3pm on the Saturday.
If England reach the semi-finals, they could meet either Morocco or Portugal. The semi-finals will take place on Tuesday December 13 and Wednesday December 14. England would be playing on the latter date.
The World Cup final will take place on Sunday December 18 at 3pm (GMT) at the Lusail Iconic Stadium. If England are in the final, they could be pitted against Argentina or Brazil.
Group B results
Who is in the England squad?
Southgate named a 26-man squad for the tournament, including call-ups for James Maddison and Conor Gallagher.
Among the goalkeepers, Pickford talks about the “G.K. Union” at England’s base in Al Wakrah, where Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale have to support the No 1 while also wanting eventually to take his place. The reserves cannot sulk and must be at the right level for meaningful training.
“Me, Popey and Rammers work really well together, we never have a day off,” Pickford said. “Every time we train we train properly, every single day. Then at the end of the day we have finishing drills against the top boys.
“Harry Kane and Rashy [Marcus Rashford] every day in training is going to get the best out of you because they are ruthless and you are doing well to save shots and when you do, it gives you confidence. The level is really high.
“We have three keepers performing really well for their clubs and we come away as one when we come to England. We all want to be No 1 but there is only one shirt to wear. Whoever plays, everyone is always supportive. That works really well and the togetherness we have as a union is really good.”
Could an England player win the Golden Boot?
Very possibly. Marcus Rashford or Bukayo Saka look the most likely candidates.
By Mike McGrath
Jude Bellingham is among the England players who have used their favourite London-based hair stylist while at the World Cup, with Sheldon Edwards’ popularity seeing him flown to Qatar by tournament organisers Fifa.
Edwards is close friends with some of Gareth Southgate’s squad based in Al Wakrah and they have been getting trimmed by Edwards on their way to the quarter-finals where they face France at the weekend.
Phil Foden had striking “lightning” tramlines shaved into his head during the tournament and other players to use Edwards include Bellingham, Jordan Pickford, Callum Wilson and Declan Rice.
Edwards, whose salon is on Lavender Hill, originally met Raheem Sterling through a mutual friend in Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, but his stable of footballer clients has since grown as his reputation spread through the Premier League.
He has also visited Dutch and Swiss camp during his time in Doha where he is an official barber for Fifa based in one of their hotels, before visiting clients with his gold briefcase where he keeps his clippers. Other clients while in Qatar have included the rapper Lil Baby, who has performed during the World Cup.
For England, he takes a Covid test before being allowed into their Souq Al Wakra Hotel before wearing a mask to cut the hair of Southgate’s players.
While concerned about the Covid rates in Doha, Southgate has allowed his team to have visitors during the tournament rest days, where they have seen their families and enjoyed downtime compared to the bio-secure bubble of the European Championships last year.
Players were given Tuesday off to rest after the last-16 win over Senegal on Sunday, with some playing golf on one of Doha’s championship courses. James Maddison and Mason Mount were among the keen golfers as Southgate’s squad recovered before focusing on their quarter-final at Al-Bayt on Saturday against France.