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EURO 2020

Harry Maguire reflects on England’s learning curve after World Cup semi-final heartbreak

One image from World Cup 2018 that has resurfaced more than most is of Harry Maguire talking to his fiancee after the win over Colombia in the first knockout stage.

“It was an iconic photo,” laughs Maguire.

But the images Maguire would not like to recall are the ones of English desolation around the Luzhniki Stadium in the wake of Croatia’s semi-final triumph.

Nine members of Gareth Southgate’s current squad played in that heartbreaking 2-1 defeat when England, leading through Kieran Trippier’s free-kick, went within 32 minutes of reaching the grandest footballing stage of all.

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Six of those – Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling – look certain to start against Denmark.

Harry Maguire became a meme after this photograph at the World Cup

And the other three – Trippier, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford – might well play crucial parts.

And Maguire believes the pain of that Moscow evening will spur them on against the Danes, saying: “Losing in the semi-final of a World Cup hurt a lot so we need to make sure that, on Wednesday night, we get a positive feeling rather than the one we got against Croatia.”

But more crucially, Maguire is convinced that this is a team that has learnt from what went wrong when they blew the chance to write their name in history.

Maguire wants to avoid any pictures like this after the semi-final against Denmark

“During that game, could we have had more belief in the second half?” says Maguire. “Could we have been a little more brave? A little more composed? Take the ball when we were leading the game rather than sit back and soak up the pressure? Is that something we could have done better?

“We have looked at that game, looked at these things and, for sure, we are in a better place now that we were when we played Croatia.”

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If you remember the feel good factor around the England team three years’ ago, that is saying something.

“We hadn’t been to a semi-final in so long as a country, so the belief wasn’t there,” Maguire goes on. “We’ll have more belief going into the Denmark game than what we did in the Croatia game. We are in a much better place than we were.

“I’m sure the fans are believing more now. And the players have great belief.”

While the core of players who are veterans of Moscow, 2018, seem to have improved, the influx of new, young players has lifted the standards amongst Southgate’s squad.

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And, of course, there is another difference between the two semi-finals.

This one is at Wembley.

England face Denmark on Wednesday for a place in the Euro 2020 final

“The atmosphere against Germany was one of the best I’ve played in,” says Maguire. It was a great day and everyone will have great memories from it. When you play for your country it’s all about building memories and creating memories and creating history. That day was a big part of history and we want to replicate it on Wednesday. It’s going to be electric

“Wembley is our home and we’re on this journey together … as players and with the fans right behind us.

“We’re really feeling their support and their love and it’s really pushing us, spurring us on to do great things.”

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