Stone not yet the defensive rock for England
Talented centre back is not mature enough to lead Three Lions' defence
(Jamie Vardy 41)
(Vincent Janssen 50-pen, Luciano Narsingh 77)
John Stones captures the imagination of young, aspiring footballers.
He is the centre back with a playmaker's feet and midfielder's instincts.
He glides across the pitch, effortlessly outmanoeuvres the opponents and always seems to be able to find that extra second to carefully pick his passes.
Experts have long identified him as a rare talent primed for the big time.
Yet, when given what was possibly his final Euro 2016 audition in an England shirt yesterday morning (Singapore time), the 21-year-old Evertonian reminded the doubters of the liability he carries with him.
In front of a sell-out Wembley crowd, he drove deeper a perception that he is a luxury that England's defence cannot afford to have.
Confidence was high in the camp following an impressive 3-2 victory over Germany last Saturday, and even more so after Jamie Vardy handed the hosts a first-half lead.
Then Stones slipped.
As he tried to make his way past Vincent Janssen just outside his own penalty area, he lost his balance.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster cleared the immediate danger by saving his shot superbly but, from the resulting attacking move, a cross from the right struck Danny Rose's hand to lead to a 50th-minute spot-kick.
Janssen converted it, and Luciano Narsingh followed it up with the winning goal 13 minutes from time.
At the final whistle, England's euphoria from the win over Germany disappeared into thin air. So could Stones' chance of a first-11 spot in Roy Hodgson's team in France.
The England manager had made nine changes to the starting line-up against Germany to give his fringe players a chance to impress.
All Stones did was further entrench himself into the stereotype that his inherent confidence carries too huge a risk.
Hodgson had recently warned him to cut out the mistakes.
Instead, Stones added one more to his collection.
England already look brittle at the base.
Chris Smalling, a shoo-in for one of the two centre back slots, promises plenty of heart, but lacks crucial organisational and leadership qualities.
Whoever Hodgson picks as his two starting fullbacks - for now it seems to be among Nathaniel Clyne, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand - it will be an inexperienced pair at international level.
Stones' game of playing out from the back is a huge weapon for England's attacking game, but of little use to a shaky and inexperienced defence in need of reliability rather than style.
If he was looking a little short of match practice, it was because he isn't getting much at Everton in recent weeks.
Dropped by Roberto Martinez because of his recent poor form and constant media scrutiny, Stones has started just one match since Jan 27.
There were, however, also flashes of the brilliance that convinced Chelsea he was worth the £40 million ($78m) they were prepared to fork out for his services last summer.
He played a part in Vardy's goal, having started the move with a fine pass from the heart of defence to the unmarked James Milner on the left flank.
Close to the hour mark, he made a trademark run out of defence before slipping an inch-perfect pass to set Theo Walcott free, but the Arsenal forward failed to fire his shot beyond his marker.
But Hodgson had already read Stones his brief.
The defender's failure to stick to it will likely cost him a starting spot in France.
Superb attack, suspect defence
After scoring four and conceding four in two games against Germany and Holland, it is obvious where England's strengths and weaknesses lie ahead of the European Championship in June.
England manager Roy Hodgson (above) is spoilt for choice as far as his attacking options go, but the defence is a concern, although he was more angry at referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz for the goals they conceded in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 2-1 loss to the Dutch at Wembley.
Wayne Rooney, England's record scorer, is likely to be fit to join Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck as attacking options for upcoming friendlies against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.
England's opening match in the Euro 2016 tournament is against Russia in Marseille on June 11.
A 3-2 win over world champions Germany last Saturday and yesterday's somewhat unfortunate 2-1 defeat by a Dutch side, who have not even qualified for the Finals, emphasised where Hodgson's focus needs to be if England are to mount a real challenge in France.
Hodgson backed his defence after the match, telling reporters: "I didn't honestly feel there were many occasions in the game when I was frightened the Dutch team were going to score a goal against us.
"I thought we controlled that quite well, but they scored two goals so perhaps I am kidding myself."
He could well be, as the defence has been breached four times in two games.
However, one of those goals came after goalkeeper Jack Butland fractured an ankle against Germany and Holland's second arrived after Vincent Janssen clearly fouled Phil Jagielka in the build-up, but the referee waved play on.
Hodgson also suggested Danny Rose was harshly punished when the ball hit his hand for the penalty that led to the Dutch equaliser.
Overall, however, the defence in both games has lacked the steel needed to win a tournament.
Hodgson has experimented with Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, John Stones and Jagielka in the centre of the defence and, with three months to go, there is no obvious first-choice pairing.
He said Stones gave an assured performance yesterday morning, but the 21-year-old seemed to lack confidence at times, holding on to the ball too long before clearing and slipping in the move that led to the Dutch equaliser.
Hodgson made eight changes yesterday morning to the team that started against Germany, and the England side that face Turkey in Manchester on May 22 will be made up of players going to France.
If Hodgson has his defence right by then, England could well build on last Saturday's win and put yesterday morning's defeat down to bad luck or inexperience. - Reuters.
Four talking points
1. HOLLAND DELIVER TIMELY REALITY CHECK FOR ENGLAND
The 3-2 win in Germany last Saturday was rightly greeted with optimism and excitement about England's emerging crop of talent but, if a dose of realism was needed, Holland provided it yesterday morning (Singapore time).
England lacked the urgency and verve they showed in Berlin and defensive frailties at the other end once again served to check any overblown expectations for the summer.
England are a work in progress and this display highlighted as much.
2. DRINKWATER DEBUT ASSURED IF UNSPECTACULAR
Danny Drinkwater is not the sort of player to light up a game with a moment of brilliance but, instead, he put in the kind of controlled performance that has made him so integral to Leicester's success this season.
He kept the ball with intelligence and composure, allowing the more creative players in front of him to do their work unrestrained and there was enough in Drinkwater's display to suggest he can be an important member of Hodgson's final squad.
3. VARDY FORM TOO HOT TO IGNORE
The Leicester striker was arguably the biggest winner from England's two friendlies, scoring twice and giving further ammunition to those who believe he warrants a place ahead of captain Wayne Rooney.
Harry Kane's fine finish against Germany and his own superb form for Tottenham have certainly made it extremely difficult for Roy Hodgson to pick the Manchester United striker ahead of either of the in-form duo.
Rooney has three more friendlies to make his case and Hodgson may yet plump for all three.
4. FULLBACKS CRUCIAL TO ENGLAND SUCCESS
Vardy's goal against Germany came after a cross from the right back Nathaniel Clyne, and so it was again the case against Holland as Kyle Walker this time cut the ball back for the Leicester man to sweep home.
England's fullbacks were their best attacking outlet throughout, with Danny Rose also posing a threat down the left, and Hodgson should be brave enough to give freedom to what are positions of attacking strength. - PA Sport.