Kalvin Phillips has backed England teammate Harry Maguire to prove any doubters wrong during their World Cup quarter final against France on Saturday.
The Manchester United defender dropped out of his club's starting XI before the World Cup but remains the key cog under Gareth Southgate at international level. He has started all four games so far in Qatar, but has been singled out by French media as a weak link.
L'Equipe said the former Leicester centre-back's pace "could prove detrimental to the England rear guard" against France's speedsters, suggesting Southgate could move to a three-player defence to counter the likes of Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele.
Les Bleus have emerged as a strong favourite to retain their 2018 crown, with Kylian Mbappe leading the scoring charts with five strikes so far, including two in the last 16 victory over Poland.
There has been talk of Mbappe specifically targeting Maguire - even though his more opposite number will likely be Kyle Walker - but Manchester City midfielder Phillips backed the 29-year-old to stand up to the task.
He said: “Harry’s not played as much football as he probably would have liked this season and got a lot of stick, which I think is very undeserved.
“He’s a top professional and a great footballer. When he plays for Manchester United he’s one of the best defenders.
“For England, he’s been one of the top defenders for a long time, especially at tournaments.
“He’s always been that player when we have set pieces or we need to block or to make a challenge, he’s always the first one to do it.
“He’s always the first one to get his head to the ball. He’s scored some very important goals as well.
“For a lot of people, because he has been mocked quite a lot, he’s the first one they go to.
“If anything bad happened in the England team, he’d be the first person anything would be said about. It’s undeserved.
Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders, Sean Walsh, Ali Rampling and Brian Goldfarb to look back on the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil - join us!
If you can’t see the podcast embed, click to download or listen to the episode in full!
“If you look at the major tournaments he has played in and how well he has done in them, you can’t really mock him because he’s been unbelievable.”
Maguire has featured at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 so far with England, scoring in quarter-final victories over Sweden and Ukraine respectively. The clash with France takes place on Saturday night at Al Bayt Stadium.