Harry Maguire has confessed that both he and his teammates knew they weren’t ready to reach a major international final prior to their semi-final defeat to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup.
Gareth Southgate’s side made history on Wednesday night as they became just the second England team ever to reach the final of a major competition, beating Denmark 2-1 to reach Euro 2020’s showpiece event.
The night got off to a rocky start as Mikkel Damsgaard’s strike handed Denmark the lead, but Maguire believes the progression and development of the side over the past few years saw them well equipped to overturn the deficit.
The England defender went on to make a candid confession when he claimed the team knew they weren’t ready for a major international final when they were beaten by Croatia in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, but he’s now relishing their success after years of hard work.
“Obviously it’s an amazing experience that we’ve been on, not just this journey, but over the last three or four years,” he told Sky Sports. “I think ever since Russia, we were so disappointed in the semi-final, but we knew at that stage that we just weren’t ready to go on and perform in that semi-final to warrant a place in the final.”
“We knew come the semi-final against Denmark we’d be a lot more focused, a lot more ready and I think the performance that the lads put in was a great performance. We dominated the game from start to finish.
“Obviously the setback that we had in the game, from a wonder strike from their player on a free-kick, to overcome that was a really important time and stage for us and I think it shows how far we’ve come over the last three or four years.”
Damsgaard’s goal against England offered them their first real setback of Euro 2020, and Maguire revealed there’d been a lot of work done behind the scenes to prepare themselves should they fall behind.
“We hadn’t conceded a goal, we hadn’t conceded the first goal so we spoke about how we would react and deal with it because we know the likelihood is that you will have a setback,” he said.
“I think the belief grows over the years that you work together, and you train together. I think a few years ago the belief wasn’t there, when we had that setback in Russia, and I think it’s grown with experience.
Maguire believes the family sprit within the group has been key to England’s success in recent years, but he says their progression to the final of Euro 2020 has been a country-wide effort.
“I think the spirit in the group’s incredible,” he added. “We’re all rivals when we go back to our clubs, but when we come together we’re a big family. I think that the bottom line is, we all want the same thing – we all want to win for our country.
“We speak about togetherness in the group but, for me, I feel like it’s not just the group, it’s the country, I really do. I feel like the fans are right with us, they have been for the last three or four years. I feel like everyone’s in this together. That’s not just in the group, I feel like it’s everybody.
“For everyone to come together, I really felt like this tournament was an opportunity for us to really bring people together, the timing of it, like you say, we’re over the peak and trying to get back to normality.
“I feel like this was an opportunity for us to really progress that, in terms of putting smiles back on faces, bringing the energy back to the country and like I say, myself and the lads are so happy that we’ve been able to do that.
“One more memorable night we need now, and one more push and one big performance to go and do everyone proud and we will do everything we can to do that.”