Southgate full of admiration for “fighter” Sterling
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England boss Gareth Southgate says Raheem Sterling has shown great resilience after silencing his doubters with his goalscoring exploits at Euro 2020.
While Manchester City dominated the Premier League last season, Sterling’s own form deserted him in the second half of the campaign, scoring just one goal following a win at Arsenal in February.
That form led to questions being raised over his place in the England team, particularly with the likes of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, and Jadon Sancho in reserve.
Nevertheless, Southgate stuck with his man and was rewarded in the opening match against Croatia as he grabbed the only goal of the game to get England’s campaign off to the perfect start.
A goalless draw against Scotland in the second Group D was followed by another narrow success in which the 26-year-old was again the matchwinner.
Then, an historic 2-0 win over Germany in the round of 16 was to follow with the winger sliding home Luke Shaw’s cross to put England in front with just 15 minutes to go.
Sterling has gone from being one of the most questioned England players to one of the most indispensable, and is set to play a big role in their quarter-final clash against Ukraine on Saturday, for which Southgate’s men travel to Rome.
The aim to secure a semi-final place for the second major tournament in a row, something which hasn’t been achieved since 1968.
Speaking about the former Liverpool man, Southgate has hailed his influence on the side and says he has stood up big time to criticism from both the press and fans.
“He is a fighter,” said the 50-year-old Southgate. “He has got an incredible resilience and hunger. He has developed over the last couple of years this real hunger to score.
“Even in the games where the the ball has flashed across the box earlier in the tournament, he has been in between the posts.
“He is finding himself in these areas and yes, his drive is fantastic, we know the journey he has been on with England and I am so happy for him to be able to deliver the performances he has.”
Sterling is the most experienced member of the England squad, with 65 caps to his name after debuting as a 17-year-old in a friendly against Sweden in 2012.
He has been a mainstay of the squad ever since, even when he was attracting hostile criticism, particularly in lieu of England’s abject defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016 which proved to be Roy Hodgson’s final game in charge.
However, his upturn in form for England certainly coincided with Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad, with Sterling now a regular goalscorer.
Sterling is now expected to line up against Ukraine with many wondering what formation Southgate will opt for.
Despite playing with a back four in the group stage, a back three was selected against Germany in order to match up with Joachim Low’s side and it worked very effectively.
A win against Ukraine would set up a semi-final tie against either Czech Republic or Denmark in what is set to be a huge chance for England to break their international tournament duck which has lasted 55 years.