Stones proud of English maturity in face of “dirtiest team I’ve played”

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John Stones has called the Colombia side which England beat in a penalty shootout in the 2018 World Cup round of 16 on Tuesday, “the dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against.”

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More importantly than Colombia’s questionable tactics, Stones is proud of the maturity shown by a young England side (average age: 25.6 years old) that refused to fall into the South Americans’ trap. It’s that focus which helped them reach Saturday’s quarterfinal clash with Sweden, and it’s that focus which will serve them best as the Three Lions chase a place in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, and perhaps their first final since winning it all in 1966 — quotes from the AP:

“The best thing for us was to beat them at football — that will hurt them most. They’re on the plane going home and we’re in the next round.”

“The game was so strange. It was the dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against, in the respect of when we won a penalty, surrounding the referee, pushing the referee, the head-butt you’ve all seen, scuffing the penalty spot and a lot of off-the-ball stuff I’m sure you’ve not heard about.

“All the sort of things you don’t really hear in a football match. On our behalf, it showed massive character to keep a cool head and not get dragged into their game. We stuck to our plan and kept playing our way and that’s a great quality to have. It was a difficult situation but one we’ve overcome and can be proud of.”

“We kept playing our own football and that’s a great sign for a team to have, to make sure we have that quality of tunnel vision to get out of the game. It was a difficult situation to be in, and we can look back on it and be very proud of it.”

Tuesday’s game saw eight yellow cards (six to Colombia) and a penalty (to England) given by referee Mark Geiger, and could have very easily seen 10 minutes of second-half stoppage time after following a handful of prolonged stoppages in play. Nearly four minutes of real time passed between the moment Geiger whistled to award England a penalty, and the time at which Harry Kane finally took, and converted, it.