Classy Stones married grit and style to marshal stingy England defence

For as long as John Stones has been the man marshalling England’s three-man backline under Gareth Southgate, there have been question marks over his ability to carry out both sides of the game.

The Manchester City defender is well-known for his ability on the ball but has made mistakes in possession for England and the widespread distrust of ‘footballing’ centre-halves intensifies the scrutiny on him to do the dirty side of the job too.

Yet, as England’s World Cup last 16 clash against Colombia descended into a test of composure as well as desire, Stones expertly stifled Radamel Falcao alongside Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker.

He was also central to England’s calm, patient approach of building up from the back as well as their emphasis on set-pieces, producing a performance that must have impressed his club manager Pep Guardiola.

Vincent Kompany has been a fading force for quite some time but the reason that City keep relying on him is because their expensive recruits to replace the Belgian have not been successful.

Stones is showing a blend of grit and graft that could elevate him into the upper echelons of centre-halves if he can keep it up, starting with Sweden on Saturday…