The role of a defender is often undermined as they are rarely involved with the main objective in football i.e scoring goals.
However, it is a known fact that a great defence is important for teams to win trophies and define success. Here are three defenders who have shone for their teams in the group stage:
1) Denzel Dumfries: Denzel Dumfries has been phenomenal for Netherlands. He has been their first-choice right wing back but plays primarily as a right back for his side PSV, wherein he serves the role of a captain.
Netherlands have been quite solid in defence, having just conceded 2 goals against Ukraine. While one of the goals was a set piece, the other was a world-class long-range goal by Andriy Yarmolenko so it is hard to criticise the defence for those goals. Dumfries has been prolific going forward as well. He scored the winner against Ukraine in their tournament opener and also doubled their lead against Austria.
2) Leonardo Bonucci: Italy have been known for their strong defence throughout the country’s rich footballing history. Many doubted whether or not Chiellini and Bonucci had the legs to perform at the highest level at this stage of their career but the paid have been fantastic. Leonardo Bonucci has featured in all three games for Italy and has been a leader at the back, especially when Chiellini has been missing. Italy have kept three clean sheets in as many games, which makes it hard to omit Bonucci.
3) John Stones: The only other team to have kept a clean sheet in each of their three games is England. While Bonucci had a trickier set of opponents to deal with, one cannot disregard the fact that England have one of the strongest defences at the finals.
John Stones is the only player who has featured in all three matches and looks like a nailed-on centre back in the upcoming games. While his defensive capabilities and ball progressing ability is known already, he was also a threat during set pieces and almost scored a goal.