Sterling ‘phenomenal’ sets the tone for England – Sports

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Steven Griffiths (AFP)

London, United Kingdom ●
Mon June 14, 2021

2021-06-14
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Gareth Southgate has said that “phenomenal” Raheem Sterling has set the tone for England’s Euro 2020 campaign after the Manchester City forward silenced his skeptics in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Croatia.

Southgate’s side got off to a good start in their attempt to win the European Championship thanks to Sterling’s strike in the second half at Wembley.

As England struggled to break resolute Croatia, it was Sterling who held on to Kalvin Phillips’ superb pass to shoot from 10 yards.

Sterling’s first major tournament goal after a series of flops on the biggest international stages couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.

Failure to win their first Group D game, which seemed a possibility until Sterling scored, would have been a setback for England.

Sterling would also have suffered further questions about his form if England had flopped after their lackluster end of season with City.

When Sterling was named in Southgate’s starting lineup, some claimed it was a mistake to pick him over Jack Grealish.

Critics have pointed to Sterling’s tame display in City’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea and his long stints on the Premier League champions bench.

But Southgate strongly believes in Sterling’s qualities and his faith has paid off as the 26-year-old travels to Croatia to prove his point.

Ignoring the sweltering temperatures, Sterling set the pace for England’s energetic opening, then came to the rescue when they ran out of ideas after the break.

“He’s been a reliable performer for us for a long time,” Southgate said.

“We can’t have the full scoring burden on Harry Kane’s shoulders. We need the wide players to participate.

“I’m delighted for him as he has been in several tournament games without scoring before today. He set the tone with his pass to Phil (Foden) early today.

“His work without the ball was phenomenal, positionally and his desire to call.”

“Block out the noise”

The ‘Football’s coming home’ anthem sung by England fans in the post-match lap of honor had additional meaning for Sterling.

Tied to a move away from City after scoring once in his last 16 appearances at the end of this season, Sterling has found solace in his return to north London, where he grew up a few miles from Wembley.

“It’s a great feeling for me to play at Wembley, not far from where I grew up when I was young and to see the stadium being built,” Sterling said.

“There are a lot of different reasons why I didn’t score for my club and it’s totally irrelevant now.

“I’m here with England, I enjoy my football and that’s the most important thing.

“I just tried to focus and go into this tournament with a clear head. I know what I can bring to the team and it’s that easy.”

Sterling won the man of the match award, but Leeds midfielder Phillips pushed him close.

Phillips was a surprise pick by Southgate, but the 25-year-old took his chance with a stylish performance.

Deployed by Leeds in a midfielder role, Southgate urged Phillips to have a more forward-thinking mindset and he responded with the dynamic burst that set up the winner from Sterling.

“Kalvin is a fabulous boy to work with, so unpretentious. His contribution to goal summed up his day,” said Southgate.

“He’s technically good and we knew the athleticism in midfield was going to be important.

“All the attributes are there. High performance, low maintenance. We really like that.”

Next up is Friday’s grudge match against Scotland and Southgate has warned his players not to rest on their laurels.

“You can pull a little sparkle out of the win and get a little soft,” Southgate said.

“We have to make sure we are ready for what is going to be an incredible game against Scotland.”


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