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The Three Lions put the nation through the emotional wringer once again in their dramatic last-16 clash with Colombia as the match went to penalties after the sides had finished tied at 1-1 over 120 nerve-wracking minutes.
But this time fortune favoured England as Gareth Southgate’s side secured a first-ever penalty shoot-out win at a World Cup, their dramatic 4-3 victory on penalties securing a quarter-final tie with Sweden on Saturday.
But there is particular praise for central defender Stones after what was a superb, poised performance from the 24-year-old at the heart of England’s back-line.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Matt Law said the calm, measured tone set by Stones rubbed off on his colleagues in the face of what was an intimidating, niggly approach by the South Americans on the field and a raucous atmosphere off it at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium.
Law writes: “Stones, the ball playing centre back, oozed calm up against Radamel Falcao and a wall of Colombian noise right from kick-off.
“How refreshing it was to see an England team in the knockout stages of a major tournament keeping the ball better, passing with confidence and creating more spaces than the opposition - let alone winning a penalty shoot-out.
"This all started at the back for Gareth Southgate’s side, with Stones setting the tone for his team-mates. In an intimidating atmosphere, the Manchester City man made sure those around him felt comfortable early in the game by passing forwards, sideways and backwards in a bid to give everyone a touch.
"Stones was no less effective with his defending, particularly when he reacted quickly to intercept after a Juan Cuadrado shot had deflected into the path of Falcao.
"But it was his dedication to keeping the ball and finding his team-mates that really stood out. England hearts skipped a beat when he made a short pass to Dele Alli on the edge of his own area, but Southgate’s team are good enough to play their way out of trouble these days.”
Former England international Jamie Redknapp was also taken with the performance of Stones.
In his match ratings verdict in the Daily Mail, Redknapp raved about the City star’s display.
Redknapp writes: “This was an aggressive, commanding display from the Manchester City centre half. Radamel Falcao was a thorn in England’s side but Stones kept him at distance. Once again assured in possession.”
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That was mirrored by ESPN’s Liam Twomey, who writes: “Stones produced one of the most convincing performances of his career at the heart of the England defence, snuffing out danger early and winning the majority of his duels in the air and on the floor.”
With the World Cup now having two rest days, attention is already switching to the quarter-finals where arguably the pick of the ties is Brazil’s showdown with Belgium.
And following the crucial late intervention of Kevin De Bruyne in helping secure Belgium’s last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan on Monday, the Mirror believe that the City midfielder needs to be deployed further forward by manager Roberto Martinez to so utilise his devastating attacking instincts.
In a forthright column, Alex Richards argues: "Pep Guardiola has found the ideal role for the Ghent-born star at City, playing in his ‘free No.8 role’ operating in the half spaces and being allowed to go and stamp his authority on games in the final third.
"Unfortunately for De Bruyne with his national team, Martinez’s desire to use a 3-4-3 formation and utilise a front trio of Romelu Lukaku, Dries Martens and Eden Hazard means De Bruyne is operating as a deep-lying midfielder too far from the area in which he really excels.
"The current system, as the opening 65 minutes against Japan showed, inhibits De Bruyne. When Belgium meet Brazil in the World Cup quarter-final, they will be delighted if he spends the majority of his time sitting in front of the back three.
"And the heart of Belgium’s winner, the driving force who powered 60 yards through the heart of Rostov-on-Don, was Kevin de Bruyne.
"In 94 minutes, it was the first time that the Manchester City man had been allowed to rip through the field and produce something like we see him do at the Etihad week in, week out.
"There was no questioning when 30 yards from the Japanese goal, with Lukaku dragging the defender one way and Meunier streaking into space, that he would pick the correct pass. It was never in doubt that it would be perfectly-timed or weighted. The question that remains however, is why did it take so long?"
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Finally, on the transfer front and Jamie Jackson, writing in the Guardian, reports that City’s summer-long interest in Jorginho and Riyad Mahrez could finally imminently bear fruit.
The Blues have been linked with the midfield pair for weeks and weeks but Jackson believes a move for the duo may soon be completed.
Jackson writes: “Pep Guardiola hopes to sign Jorginho in time for the start of pre-season training on Monday, with Manchester City and Napoli close to finalising a deal for the midfielder.
“The 26-year-old is expected to complete the transfer in time for him to participate in the champions’ start to their preparation for next season. The initial fee will be in the region of €49m (£43m) for the Brazilian-born Italy international, who is set to agree a five-year contract.
“The manager remains in pole position to prise Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City, though an agreement between the clubs is yet to be agreed. The basic price of the Algeria international is expected to start at £60m and with add-ons may raise to £75m.”
As ever, if there is any definite transfer news, you will read it first here at mancity.com
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