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John Stones: England's defence at Euro 2024 is a source of pride

John Stones has highlighted England's defensive solidity at Euro 2024, as criticism of head coach Gareth Southgate's attacking plans continues to pile up.

England lumbered to a goalless draw against Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday night to top Group C with just five points.

They only managed two goals in their three group-stage games, with Jude Bellingham scoring in the opening win over Serbia and Harry Kane putting England ahead against Denmark before they were pegged back.

But, at the other end of the pitch, England have proved a tough nut to crack, conceding a long-range Morten Hjulmand strike against the Danes but facing only two shots on target across the other two fixtures as Stones and Marc Guehi continue to form a strong understanding as a centre-back pairing.

"It is something I'm extremely proud of because that's a base, that's a platform for the lads to go and show their flair and their skill and score goals and try to win us games," Stones said of England's defensive displays so far.

"We know we've got improvement to do this week on the training pitch, we will be self-critical of everything and look to make that step forward again.

"A clean sheet, two clean sheets out of three, is so good in tournament football. It's the key really for us to go and win games.

"We want to deliver for everyone, we want to deliver for ourselves. We want to keep improving and we want to achieve something that's never been done before."

Southgate said after the Slovenia game he is happy for criticism to be aimed at him if it means keeping it away from his players.

Stones, though, insists the whole group need to take responsibility as the Manchester City defender praised the "character" of under-fire Southgate.

Asked if the players want to succeed for the manager, Stones told 5 Live Football Daily: "Yes, 100 percent.

"We're so together and I think he (Southgate) is a great character - how he controls everything in his emotions, the outside pressure.

"That's something that we shouldn't get involved in. I don't think we have.

"I'm really pleased to top the group, I think that's the most important thing. You can get carried away, sometimes with maybe outside noise and pressures of the game, expectation of us playing better.

"We know that, as players, we've got to deliver more and we wanted to win the game, but to top the group is what we came here to achieve. We've done that now and now we need to build and improve for the next game."

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