Stones now the rock for South­gate to build fu­ture around

De­fender has held out against the two best teams in the world

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - JA­SON BURT AT WEM­B­LEY

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

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