Stones now the rock for Southgate to build future around
Defender has held out against the two best teams in the world
If Gareth Southgate is embarking on a global experiment with England, then John Stones represents the most significant exercise. Amid all the excitement and freshness of Ruben Loftus-cheek, who sadly limped off here injured after barely half an hour, of new faces and new formations, the most important discovery of all is the confirmation that Stones will be the centrepiece of England’s defence. And that Joe Gomez can play alongside him.
It was the case against the world champions, Germany, last Friday, when Stones was a study in unruffled elegance, and it was the case against Brazil, the best team in the world right now, when he was far more a footballer concentrated on the foundations of his role: to defend.
Southgate had warned about the juggernaut and, bam, it struck. Against Brazil, this was a learning curve that was almost perpendicular for England.
The manager had also chided his players over trophy-hunting when it came to swapping shirts and, at times, his players did not even get close enough to ask.
At one stage Harry Maguire was so surprised to be presented with the ball on the edge of his own penalty area that all he could do was hack it out of play.
Before that and Brazil had kept possession for such a long period that England were reduced to spectating.
Maguire got better. The back three is here to stay and on the other side, up against Neymar, Gomez, the 20-year-old making his