Gareth Southgate is delighted that people continue to question Raheem Sterling as his “warrior” continues to answer his critics with goals for England at Euro 2020.
The Manchester City forward scored his third goal of the tournament as he gave England a 2-0 last-16 lead over Germany on Tuesday night.
Sterling has scored the winning goals against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage but despite scoring 15 goals in his last 20 international appearances, his place in Southgate’s side has been called into question with the emergence of new talent in his position.
But Southgate’s faith in the 26-year-old continues to be appreciated and he praised Sterling after Germany’s win.
“He’s a fighter,” Southgate said when asked about Sterling’s ability to handle criticism.
“He has incredible resilience and hunger. He has developed over the last few years a real hunger to score goals, even in games where the chances where the ball has crossed the box earlier in the tournament have been somewhere in between. post.
“He’s found himself in this area and yes, his drive has been fantastic, we know the journey he’s made with England and I’m really happy he can deliver the performances he has.
“To get them at Wembley would be very special for him and, as you said, his goal return was incredible.
“Absolutely awesome, really, but yeah, please keep asking questions because if we can’t motivate him, someone else can!”
While Sterling enjoyed a great time with England, he struggled to score early in his international career – scoring just two goals in his first 45 games.
He shared the opinion of England fans, especially during the 27 goalless games that also took place at the 2018 World Cup, but Southgate saw a change in Sterling after returning from the tournament in Russia.
“He’s probably just one of those players who came back from the World Cup with a different feeling and I spoke to him at length about that,” Southgate said.
“I think Sevilla (a 3-2 Nations League win against Spain in which Sterling scored twice) was a real moment of improvement for him. You can almost see it.
“He almost jumped to the second tier of the stadium if you saw his goal celebration that night.
“I really feel this is an important moment for him and, of course, he has scored goals for his club but has not been able to translate them.
“Now I think he feels happy in our environment, feels he can be himself, knows the respect we have for him and yes, his performances in every game of this tournament, he has been a huge threat to every opponent.”
‘Germany wins perfect day for Kane’
As Sterling continued his fine scoring streak at Euro 2020, England captain Harry Kane ended his game of the tournament as he added a second against Germany.
Southgate’s men will now travel to Rome to face Ukraine in the quarter-finals on Saturday and he believes Kane’s return to fine form can only be good for the nation – leveling his run to Alan Shearer, who went two years without England before ending his barren run against Switzerland. at Euro 96.
“I played with Alan at Euro 96 and [saw] the change in him once he got that goal,” added Southgate.
“We know with Harry and Raheem their scoring record with us is huge and very important. We can’t just expect Harry to be the one to give it so Raheem has weighed in at the crucial moment and looks excited but if we can get Harry to score as well that’s great for us as a team.
“There is great expectation and although it will feel from the outside at times it is a glamorous position and they are definitely well paid, it comes with enormous pressure and expectation and I think it is important as a manager to understand that. and have empathy with it.
“Not only is there a public expectation but there is an inherent desire and drive that a centre-forward has that if you win a game they don’t score and they are upset.
“They can’t hold it in. That is the mindset of top players. So (Germany’s victory) will be a perfect day for him.
“He wants the team to win more than anything except for the team to win and he scores goals, without a doubt it will put a big smile on his face.”