Rio Ferdinand BACKS Gareth Southgate's selection of Harry Maguire

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

  • Rio Ferdinand backs Gareth Southgate’s pick of Harry Maguire at centre-back
  • The defender is in the heart of defence alongside John Stones despite club form
  • Micah Richards said Phil Foden’s absence was a surprise with his Man City form 
  • Live blog coverage of all the action in England’s opening match against Iran 
  • Sportsmail’s live blog covering all the latest stories across the World Cup 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

The BBC’s pundit team expressed their pleasure with England’s starting backline after the starting 11 was announced for their opening World Cup game against Iran.

Gareth Southgate has repeatedly shown his trust in Manchester United defender Harry Maguire, and he has been selected alongside John Stones at centre-back.

Maguire’s club performances have been seen by some to be a reason to leave him out of the squad entirely, but Southgate has shown his support for the 29-year-old from Sheffield, who was named in the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2020 last year. 

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said: ‘That goes back to the experiences [Maguire] has had with tournament football. He’s been impeccable with England. He’s not in form but you can see a special relationship that’s been built with Southgate.’

Harry Maguire has been selected to start at centre-back in England’s opening match in Qatar

Gareth Southgate’s first team for the 2022 World Cup partnered Maguire with John Stones

Alan Shearer said he was ‘pleased’ that Southgate stuck by a back four formation to play Iran, adding: ‘That 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 personnel of the 4-3-3 line-up was slightly surprising, based on the current form of Manchester City’s Phil Foden, who was omitted at the expense of Bukayo Saka. 

Richards said: ‘Foden has been in such good form with City, that’s the one surprise in there. Maguire has been faultless with England. We talk about trust – when a manager trusts you, he’s not let England down. I understand why he’s starting.’

Rio Ferdinand said that he felt Maguire was chosen because of his tournament experiences

Micah Richards said he was surprised an in-form Phil Foden was left out of the starting 11

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

The Iran match is Maguire’s 49th for England, and he has scored seven goals for his country, four of which came in the qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup, where England topped their group. 

The England side to face Iran is as follows: Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane. 

Kyle Walker (left, with Eric Dier) is hoping to make a full return to fitness during the World Cup

Moving forward through the competition, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is expecting to be back in contention for the starting line-up for the USA match on Friday, whilst James Maddison may provide another attacking option in future games after missing some training sessions due to a knee problem. 

Southgate has previously said he is looking to rotate his team, at least during the group stages, as England try to secure qualification to the latter rounds.  

Declan Rice alongside Maguire in the stadium ahead of England’s Group B clash against Iran

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