Maguire among England's 'best centre-backs' as Southgate explains World Cup snub for youthful defence

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Gareth Southgate says Harry Maguire is one of England's "best centre-backs" after the defender was named among the Three Lions' Qatar 2022 World Cup squad.

The Manchester United captain will head to his third major tournament with the national team, following Russia 2018 and Euro 2020, despite struggling for regular minutes at club level.

One of a dozen players retained from the squad that reached the semi-finals four years ago, Maguire has been a regular for England under Southgate.

That experience in major knockout encounters has helped him keep his spot despite underwhelming for United, with inclusion indicating the strong support Southgate has for his player.

"He's one of our best centre-backs," he stated. "I think within the squad, we've got a lot of players that have been to tournaments, have performed at that level, and know what's required.

"We've got other players who are playing well, who are in form right at this moment, and we've got to balance all of that when picking our team."

Maguire's selection was expected but has nevertheless raised eyebrows amid the promising form of younger understudies, such as Milan's Fikayo Tomori and Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi.

Southgate suggested that, despite limited opportunities for Maguire, his youthful rivals had not shown enough to dislodge his faith in Maguire and others, such as Everton loanee Conor Coady.

"We've picked our more experienced defenders," he added. "In this moment in time, the younger ones have got some really good qualities.

"But we don't think they've done quite enough to push the more experienced ones out. With the tournament we're going into and the level of the matches, that had to be the pecking order."