England’s John Stones is ready for a picture perfect moment as he targets victory in the Nations League.
The defender believes England are on the brink of a special breakthrough ahead of Thursday’s Nations League semi-final with Holland in Portugal.
After being teased by Manchester City team-mate David Silva with photos of the trophies he has won with Spain, Stones now wants his own snaps to show the midfielder.
“David is always making fun of me and he’ll send me a picture of the three things he’s won (with Spain), the World Cup and two European Championships (saying) ‘This might be you one day,'” said Stones.
“But that’s something that he’s so proud of, and I don’t want to say that I can’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine it happening years ago but now we’re so close to something special.
“I can’t imagine what the scenes will be like if we do it, and touch wood, we do it. Because it would be something special for all of us.”
The defender could start for the Three Lions after losing his place in the City side this year.
Stones started just eight Premier League games in 2019 and only three of Ctiy’s final 10 matches as they took the title ahead of Liverpool by a point.
The 25-year-old was also only a late substitute in the 6-0 FA Cup final victory over Watford last month.
But he insists he understands the need to put the team first at the Etihad.
He said: “I felt in previous seasons, especially when I was younger from 19 to 21 maybe, I would have focused too much on ‘What am I doing? Why aren’t I?’ and not thinking about the greater good of the team.
“That’s what everyone did this season and I think that’s why we pulled through in every competition except the Champions League.
“I’m massively proud of what I did. Because if you think back now, you remember the end of the season.
“For football fans in general, they remember us winning things, the big games. They don’t remember the first half of the season, maybe to the start of January, the new year.
“That’s where I believe every bit of hard work, every game we’ve won is setting you up for that second half of the season. I was a massive part of that. That’s why it’s such a team game.
“I realise my role is something bigger than playing, sometimes.”
Victory in Portugal would cap another medal-laden season for Stones following the domestic treble with City.
England are 12 months on from last summer’s World Cup semi-final exit where the national team restored the bond with their fans and the media, with Stones eager to keep progressing.
He added: “It is exciting, because last summer seems so far away now.
“We did everything we could so that when we went out there we knew we were ready for any scenario.
“We need to deliver again now and that’s the expectation that we have put on ourselves. And there is huge potential with the younger guys.”
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Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has urged the players to create a productive environment around star man Lionel Messi.
The forward will be returning to the Argentina camp ahead of the Copa America after a disappointing end to a great campaign with Barcelona.
The Catalans failed to preserve a 3-0 lead against Liverpool in the semi-final of the Champions League and then lost the Copa del Rey final against Valencia two weeks later.
Scaloni believes that the players in the Argentina squad need to look at Messi as a normal human and create a positive atmosphere for him to run his magic. He also mentioned that Messi knows he needs his team-mates to support him.
“That Messi is magnificent, great, you know, there are no more adjectives for him. That is evident,” Scaloni told Mundo Deportivo.
“Leo needs a team and the team needs him. That must be normal. Here he needs his companions. And we all need a team, commitment, the desire to win, to do something, always talking and thinking in plural. And Messi is the first to know, [that] he needs his team-mates.
“Here I have heard everything. That when he arrived well having won in his club, then he did badly in the national team. That if he does badly in Barcelona it is better because he arrives with a desire for revenge.
“There is no sense in either of them. They are speculations. I think that Leo feels comfortable in the national team and takes all the pressure off. Here there is no pressure of anything. You should only focus on having a good Copa America.
“The goal is for Leo to feel that his team-mates will help him win and that he will help them win, too.”
Harry Kane is in England’s 23-man squad for the Nations League Finals but Tottenham team-mates Kieran Trippier and Harry Winks have been left out.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has cut his group down from an initial list of 27 that he named on May 16, with Southampton duo Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse joining Trippier and Winks in dropping out.
Captain Kane, who has not played since suffering ankle ligament damage in April, is confirmed as retained on the day the striker declared himself “ready” for Spurs’ clash with Liverpool in Saturday’s Champions League final.
Kane sustained the injury in the first leg of the quarter-final against Manchester City on April 9, which was also when Winks made his last appearance.
Tottenham announced later that month that Winks had undergone groin surgery, while the midfielder said he hoped it was not the end of his season.
Full-back Trippier, part of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals last summer, was an unused substitute in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro in March.
Redmond had been a surprise inclusion in Southgate’s 27-man squad, having been overlooked since winning his only England cap in March 2017.
Ward-Prowse, who made his senior international debut at the same, won his second cap in the recent Montenegro game.
England face Holland in their Nations League semi-final a week on Thursday in Guimaraes.
There are seven players in Southgate’s 23 who could potentially be involved in the match in the Champions League final in Madrid five days earlier.
Redmond, who won a Player of the Year double at Southampton’s end-of-year awards, and Ward-Prowse will remain training with the squad for the time being.
Southgate said in a statement from the Football Association: “We have got exciting players and picking a squad is really difficult because we have lots of depth of talent, not only the squad we have picked but the Under-21s as well.
“There has been some difficult decisions to make and we are obviously a little bit complicated with so many players involved in the Champions League as well but we are really excited by the squad and the players that are around it.
“Some players who have had really good finishes to the season like James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond are staying with us for this period to train because although we have cut the squad to 23, we have still got two weeks to get through and two really big finals ahead. So some of those calls are even more difficult.
“Harry Winks is a player we really like and that’s a tough one because he has not played for a couple of months and we don’t get to see him in training. He is back training with Spurs, he might be involved at the weekend but we wouldn’t see him until two days before the game.
“So when we had other midfielders who are either with us or who are playing regularly, that was the only thinking behind that decision. Harry could still come into that mix and has done very well for us whenever he has played with England, so is a player we like.
“Of course, Kieran Trippier has had such a big impact, he had such a brilliant World Cup. He has been a really valuable member of our squad and has a great attitude with us, real passion in playing for England but Trent (Alexander-Arnold) and Kyle (Walker) have finished the season so strongly.
“So it (right-back) is a position where we have got real competition for places. That is as hard a decision as we have had to make.”
Nations League Finals hosts Portugal face Switzerland in the other semi-final the day before England’s game, and both the final and third-place play-off then take place on Sunday June 9.
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