Colwill and Dunk are England’s backbone, forged in Brighton!

Colwill and Dunk are England’s backbone, forged in Brighton!

Typically it was Harry Maguire who was publicly blamed for the goal that eliminated England from the World Cup in December.

Olivier Giroud ghosted between Maguire and defensive partner John Stones to send France into the semi-finals.

If you watch it back, it’s easy to conclude why Maguire was deemed the culprit – a split- second loss of concentration.

However, that doesn’t necessarily depict the truth, because for the phase of play that led to Giroud’s goal, it is little known that the France striker was actually Stones’s responsibility.

Maguire tried, but failed, to get round on the cover when Stones momentarily lost Giroud.

Levi Colwill earned his stripes at Brighton last season and will hope to impress with England

Lewis Dunk, who partnered Dunk at the Amex, has also earned a Three Lions call-up this month

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Not that it really matters, of course. The only detail that either Maguire or Stones were bothered about that night was England’s pending departure.

It was a rare mistake for a central defensive axis that has served England with distinction.

It has been a comforting sight for وینسترول Gareth Southgate during his seven-year reign with England. But for the first time, the partnership is under genuine threat.

The exceptional Stones, fitness provided, will remain in the heart of the defence for next summer’s European Championship.

But Maguire’s place is less clear cut. He isn’t playing regularly enough at Manchester United to be guaranteed a place in Southgate’s squad.

A move away from Old Trafford in January could change the trajectory of his England career. But having already been warned by the head coach that his international place is in jeopardy, there is a problem brewing.

Harry Maguire’s place looks at risk in light of his lack of game time at Manchester United

Indeed, it would have been interesting to see if Maguire would have been selected for the forthcoming games against Ukraine and Scotland had Stones and Tyrone Mings not been ruled out through injury.

As a result, Levi Colwill, Marc Guehi and Lewis Dunk will all be sensing opportunity this week.

Guehi has benefited greatly from a plan coined by Southgate and other key members of England’s technical staff to invest in a young central defender amid concerns about options behind Maguire and Stones.

At the time the Crystal Palace star ticked all the boxes and is now proving he belongs on the international stage.

But it is the emergence of Colwill that really has Southgate rubbing his hands together. A dominant defender, bursting with technical ability and composure, his ability to pick a pass or run through the lines is a trait that England particularly like. 

The piece de resistance: he’s left-footed. If ever a player was tailor-made to fill the left-sided role in the team then it’s Colwill.

If ever a player was tailor-made to fill the left-sided role in England’s defence, it’s Colwill

Ask those close to the set-up and many of them will tell you Colwill has a genuine chance of starting in next summer’s Euros, let alone being in the squad.

‘Football has changed a lot due to managers’ tactics and it fits me a lot being a defender that likes to play football,’ Colwill said. 

‘I like to start attacks from the back. Stones is a role model. Watching him now, he is an amazing player. So calm on the ball. If I want to improve myself I have got to watch these players, especially Thiago Silva.

‘I remember being younger and watching him. Definitely these players who are technically amazing and calm on the ball. It has definitely helped me mould myself around them.’

Playing under the pioneering Roberto De Zerbi during a loan spell at Brighton last season helped nurture Colwill’s ball-playing beliefs. The Italian has transformed Brighton into one of Europe’s most attractive teams.

Colwill, who has since returned to Chelsea, would vouch for that. As would his defensive partner of last season Dunk – the heartbeat of De Zerbi’s revolution. ‘I don’t think people realise how good he (Dunk) actually is,’ said Colwill.

Dunk put his re-emergence down to Roberto De Zerbi after his five-year Three Lions hiatus

‘Being able to play and train with him every day, I realised the things he could do and playing alongside him has helped me out a lot.’

The feeling is mutual for Dunk, who took Colwill under his wing last season. It has taken Dunk, 31, five years to break back into the England squad after a first call-up in 2018.

He puts his re-emergence down to De Zerbi, saying: ‘I see the game differently since the new manager at Brighton has come in, I picture it in a different way.

‘Football is not what I thought it was. Just how we play now. The idea of what I did before, I thought it made sense.

‘But when you learn something completely different, you believe in it and this makes sense. You think, “Why didn’t I know this?” and, “Why didn’t I do this before?”

‘Obviously under Graham (Potter), we played football. But the details Roberto has put in now, is incredible.’