Stones’ complete performance shows why he is central to this England team

For some England players in years gone by, playing for their country has been a chore by comparison to their day job in the Premier League and it has shown on the pitch.

For John Stones, coming away from a Premier League winning squad and working under Pep Guardiola could easily become the same but that does not appear to be the case at all.

The central defender was kept out of City’s late-season plans by injury and the form of others in front of him, which has kept him fresh and more importantly, motivated, for his key role at the heart of Gareth Southgate’s England defence.

In the 6-1 drubbing of Panama, Stones put in an almost complete performance. He opened the scoring with a thumping header before adding a second before half time.

That led to the unthinkable scenario that wrestling England’s second penalty away from Harry Kane would have presented him with the chance to become the first defender to score a World Cup hat-trick for England.

At the other end, he made the most of Panama’s lack of willingness to press by getting on the ball more than any other Three Lions player and displaying unerring accuracy in possession.

He was the epitome of Southgate’s ideal defender in this system, although tougher tests lie ahead.