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Southgate’s loyalty to be tested.

Southgate’s loyalty to be tested.

Even Gareth Southgate’s unwavering loyalty to players who have served him well during his England reign will be put to the test by the dilemma he faces over Harry Maguire.

Harry Maguire

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Despite his poor club performance, the England manager keeps picking the center defender, preventing him from securing a starting position with Manchester United.

Before Monday’s Nations League match against Germany, some fans booed as the name of Maguire was called.

And by the time the game ended in a 3-3 tie, even those who were willing to give Maguire the benefit of the doubt were beginning to mistrust him.

He made a serious mistake that led to Germany taking the lead early in the second half when he gave the ball to Jamal Musiala and then carelessly tackled him to earn a penalty that Ilkay Gundogan converted past Nick Pope.

Soon after, Maguire lost possession of the ball in a dangerous area of the field. This led to a counterattack, and Kai Havertz’s spectacular goal made it 2-0.

England would come back to lead 3-2 before Pope’s error allowed Germany an equalizer, but even a morale-boosting tie will not divert attention away from the Maguire controversy as the World Cup approaches.

“I know everyone will focus on Harry, but there were some very important moments Harry delivered during the two matches,” Southgate said of Maguire, who also started in last week’s 1-0 defeat by Italy.

“That’s always going to raise debate, but I think in these moments we’ve got to back our best and our most experienced players, unless we’re in a situation where it’s almost untenable and impossible to pick them.”

Maguire’s situation, though, may soon become untenable, as he is unlikely to make many starts for his club before Southgate selects his selection for Qatar.

Southgate will remind out that Maguire was a major part of England’s march to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and was named to the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament, becoming something of a cult hero among fans.

However, the 29-year-performance old’s on Monday was that of a player struggling with form and confidence.

“Gareth is being loyal to the players who haven’t let him down in the past,” former England striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live. “What will be a bigger problem is if these guys get very little game time in the next couple of months.

“This is going to be a huge problem going into the first game (in Qatar). It is a big risk and maybe a risk too far.”

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Daniel Mathias

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