Gareth Southgate hailed Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City forward slayed personal and collective demons in England’s 1-0 Euro 2020 win over Croatia.
Sterling latched on to Kalvin Phillips’ 57th-minute pass to score the only goal in the Group D opener.
Much of the pre-match speculation had centred around whether Sterling would – or, indeed, should – retain his place in Southgate’s forward line, having endured a disappointing end to the season at club level.
He was also without a goal in 12 previous major tournament appearances for the Three Lions, but Sterling also had 12 in 16 appearances since the 2018 World Cup and picked the perfect time to continue that prolific run.
“I’m so pleased for Raheem. He’s had this hex in the tournaments not being able to get the goal,” Southgate told BBC Sport, after England won their opening game of a European Championship campaign at the 10th time of asking.
“I thought he was dangerous all day.
“He’s a good player and his goalscoring records suggests that we should have faith with him, especially over the last few years. I think he was motivated to show that.”
17 – Raheem Sterling’s goal for @England completed a 17-pass move, the most passes before an England goal at the EUROs since Steven Gerrard scored following a 19-pass move against Switzerland in 2004. Link-up. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/icqtyrvw9V
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 13, 2021
Phillips’ assist crowned a superb showing from the Leeds United man, who more than justified his selection alongside Declan Rice and Mason Mount – England’s midfield three ensuring Luka Modric and Croatia’s masterful ballplayers were unable exert their influence upon the contest for any sustained period.
“Kalvin is a player who is so understated and has had a fantastic start to his international career,” Southgate said.
“I thought he was immense throughout the game, I though they all were.
“Croatia, I think the key is to get pressure on their midfield players and we managed to do that. That limited the supply and the players at the back dealt with the long balls and read the game well.
“I think it was a day where everyone who go onto the pitch did well. We’re going to need that for the next four weeks.”
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