England really believe that winning the World Cup is possible, unlike in 2018

Harry Maguire says England’s players feel they have to ‘win this tournament’ in Qatar – a sea change in group mentality since the last World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s men are preparing for a quarter-final against defending champions France on Saturday at Al Bayt Stadium, where the winner will return for the semi-finals.

Portugal or Morocco would look forward to the stage England reached in Russia four years ago after exceeding expectations during a stunning run that ended in an extra-time defeat by Croatia.

Mario Mandzukic scores Croatia’s winning goal in the 2018 semi-final (Tim Goode/PA)

The Southgate-based outfit made up for that disappointment by reaching the final of last year’s European Championship and Maguire believes he can take it one step further in Qatar.

Asked if it’s hard not to lie in bed and think about how it feels to lift the World Cup, she said: “Probably yes.

“I think that’s the only thing I would say that is very different from the 2018 team to this team – I think we really believe it’s possible.

“I played in 2018 and we got to the semis and I think a lot of guys were happy. You were happy to be part of the semifinal.

“You know whatever happened in that semi-final, you would have gone home and been billed as a hero and everyone would have patted you on the back.

Harry Maguire celebrates scoring in the 2018 quarter-finals

Harry Maguire celebrates goal in 2018 quarter-final (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“I think there is now a belief that we have to win this tournament. It’s a nice change of mindset.

“Of course, we know how tough it will be. I think there are probably five or six teams with the same belief.

“But in 2018, we probably weren’t one of those teams that had that belief. Now there are five or six who hold this belief and we are one of them.”

This belief is showing itself on the pitch, where Maguire believes England are much better in control of matches and are approaching their opponents with a front foot mentality.

The mindset and conviction helped collectively and individually, with the 29-year-old defender impressing in a tournament that many spectators thought he shouldn’t have been.

Harry Maguire has enjoyed a good tournament so far

Harry Maguire has enjoyed a good tournament so far (Martin Rickett/PA)

Maguire has struggled for playing time and form at Manchester United, but the England centre-back impressed in Qatar and says his confidence has never wavered.

“I don’t read too much if I’m being honest,” he said.

“You collect bits and bobs and maybe my family reads things more than me. I tell them to stay away (social media), but maybe they don’t because it’s a habit for most people these days.

“So, no, I read small things, but I am 29 years old, I am the captain of Manchester United and I have made 52 appearances for my country.

“So when I look back on my career and put it all into perspective, if I was a kid then I’m living the dream. I’m doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do.

“So where I am at the moment, the next phase of my career I want to start winning trophies.

“The last year was difficult and I didn’t play as well as in the previous five years at the top level.

“But I think during a career there are probably only Lionel Messi and Cristiano (Ronaldo) who are the only two who have not had a decline in their career.

“It’s a 15-year career if you’re really lucky, there’s really no way, especially with all the scrutiny there is on defenders these days, you won’t have dips.

Harry Maguire, left, has struggled for playing time with Manchester United this season

Harry Maguire, left, has struggled for playing time with Manchester United this season (Ian Hodgson/PA)

“I’ll probably get another one too, but it’s how you come back, how you recover from them. You have to stay focused and maintain self-confidence.

Maguire is grateful for manager Southgate’s unrelenting support and that of his teammates, who have apparently taken turns praising the centre-back during the World Cup.

He’s not only impressing on the pitch in Qatar, but also in the team hotel, where he excelled playing ‘wolf’, a card game about busting out liars and building trust.

“I’m pretty good at psychology, to be honest – I’ve had to be in the last year or so,” the defender said with a laugh.

Morale is high in the English camp

Morale is high in the English camp (Martin Rickett/PA)

Maguire played it at Leicester and says “the more you play, the more you see”, adding “you can see what people do, how they behave”.

The game helped the team bond, while also allowing them to rely on skills that have become important in everyday life.

“I think especially being in my position, it’s really important to know who you can trust,” she added.

“You build relationships throughout your career and now I feel like I know who I can talk to, who I can trust, and I have a lot of people I can trust. Of course.”

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