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Rio Ferdinand BACKS Gareth Southgate's selection of Harry Maguire for England's World Cup opener

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Rio Ferdinand SUPPORTS Gareth Southgate’s selection of ‘flawless’ Harry Maguire for England’s World Cup opener with Iran – and says the Man United defender has built a ‘special relationship’ with the manager

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The BBC’s expert team welcomed England’s starting rear after the eleven starting teams were announced for their opening World Cup match against Iran.

Gareth Southgate has repeatedly shown his confidence in Manchester United defender Harry Maguire and has been selected as central defender alongside John Stones.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said: “That goes back to the experience [Maguire] had with tournament football. He has been impeccable with England. He’s not in shape, but you can see a special relationship has developed with Southgate.’

Declan Rice and Harry Maguire at the stadium ahead of England's opening game against Iran

Declan Rice and Harry Maguire at the stadium ahead of England’s opening game against Iran

Alan Shearer said he was ‘happy’ Southgate stuck to a back four formation to play Iran, adding: ‘It was the right thing to do. It was a big decision, who plays with Stones. We know how loyal he is to Maguire. I like the experience in the team and the youth.’

Fellow pundit Micah Richards noted that the line-up was a somewhat surprising decision, based on the current form of Manchester City’s Phil Foden, who was left out at the expense of Bukayo Saka.

Richards said: ‘Foden is in such good form at City, that’s the only surprise there. Maguire has been flawless with England. We’re talking about confidence – if a manager trusts you, he hasn’t let England down. I understand why he starts.’

England’s other Group B foes Wales and the US will play in late kick-off on Monday ahead of their group matches later in the month.

The game against Iran is Maguire’s 49th for England and he has scored seven goals for his country, including four in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

More to follow…


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