DOHA: John Stones has warned England to respect Senegal in Monday’s World Cup best of 16 clash with Gareth Southgate’s squad looking to avoid being the latest title-dropping squad to be eliminated.
Four-time world champions Germany and second-placed Belgium were named the group stage winners in Qatar, while Argentina, France and Spain also suffered first-round defeats.
England are clearly the top choice to beat Senegal at Al Bayt Stadium, but the Manchester City defender is urging his squad not to underestimate the ability of the African Nations Cup winners.
“We’ve seen a lot of big surprises, because it’s the best championship in the world,” said Stones.
“Whatever, we don’t want to fall into that category (eliminated). You don’t want to take it easy.
“What can be done is through what we do, what matches we join and give everything.”
Stones at the same time contributed to the belief that England would not be complacent despite leading Group B with an unbeaten record.
Citing the way they were able to come back from six games without a win leading up to the World Cup, Stones said: “After losing so much as a team, as a unit in defense and how we came through, I’m so proud of the team.
“I’ve spoken before about why our performance has increased, it’s because of the summer we’ve had. Now, we’ve had three matches in a difficult group.”
Having reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and finishing runners-up to Euro 2020, Stones believes England have the qualities to lift the trophy in Doha, but will need to stay positive if the pressure builds up.
“It’s not being too confident, it’s being more humbling to see what we’re going to go through in training and how our employees are prepared and also believe in ourselves,” he said.
“We can also be too negative, but we have to be more positive and think about the previous effort and how it got us here and be realistic about our expectations.”
The main reason for England’s dream is to hunt for a first major trophy since 1966 and he has relied on Stones and Harry Maguire in defence.