Sterling in the spotlight as England face Ukraine

Sterling in the spotlight as England face Ukraine
Alex Wrigley
Alex Wrigley
July 3, 2021
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Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.

There can be only one possible tagline for England’s Euro 2020 campaign to date: The summer of Sterling.

This is the summer when one of English football’s more maligned talents had Three Lions supporters Raheeming of Euro 2020 glory, and long may it continue.

Heading into Saturday’s quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome, there can be few doubts about who has been the standout player for England at these European Championships. Having entered the tournament with his place in the team seemingly under threat, Raheem Sterling has repaid the faith shown in him by boss Gareth Southgate to lead his nation to the last eight.

The Manchester City forward netted the winners in the two group stage victories over Croatia and the Czech Republic before breaking the deadlock in Monday’s memorable last-16 win against Germany.

It’s not just his goals that have caught the eye but his all-round play and Sterling is now the 6/1 favourite with bet365 to be named player of the tournament for Euro 2020.

Slow start for Sterling

Those efforts have put Sterling on the front page for all the right reasons for a change, winning over a fanbase that hasn’t always shown a lot of love for the 26-year-old. The former Liverpool forward won his first cap in 2012 when just 17-years-old but it wasn’t until 2014 when he became a regular on the international scene.

Sterling was one of a very small number of England players to emerge from a disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign with any credit, a strong showing against Italy giving into the future. He then opened his England account in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and his international career was expected to take off from that point, only for it to stall.

After a promising start, fans began to grow frustrated with Sterling’s lack of end product for the national team. He netted just two goals in his first 45 games for England, going 27 matches without a goal at one point.

Much of the frustration originated in large part due to Sterling producing regularly on the club scene with City, finishing the 2017/18 season with 23 goals for the Citizens before drawing a blank at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

While his numbers for City are good, scoring 114 in 292 appearances, he has certainly had peaks and troughs at the Etihad Stadium. The build-up to his productive 2017/18 season was dominated by talk of City wanting to sell Sterling, only for him to answer the doubters in the best possible fashion by doing his talking on the pitch.

Southgate to the rescue

It wasn’t long after the 2018 World Cup that Sterling’s fortunes in front of goal for England changed with Southgate pin-pointing the brace he got against Spain in a 3-2 Nations League win in October 2018 as a turning point.

That double kick-started a run of 15 goals from Sterling’s last 21 appearances for England and his trio of strikes at Euro 2020 has him in the mix for the Golden Boot. He’s 7/1 to finish as the tournament’s top scorer, trailing Cristiano Ronaldo by two goals heading into Saturday’s encounter with Ukraine.

His excellent form in front of goal has come as a major surprise having struggled to deliver for Manchester City towards the end of the season, scoring once for the Premier League champions after February.

A poor showing against Chelsea in the Champions League final only increased the pressure upon Southgate to sideline him in favour of a Jack Grealish or Bukayo Saka but the Three Lions boss stuck by him. From his position being in question at the start of the tournament, Sterling will be one of the first names, if not the first, on the team sheet for a very winnable quarter-final in Rome.

The Ukrainians have never kept a clean sheet in a European Championship clash and Sterling should be licking his lips at the prospect of adding to his goal tally. Despite opening the scoring in three of England’s previous four games, Sterling is available at 5/1 with bet365 to break the deadlock at the Stadio Olimpico, while he’s 7/4 to find the net at anytime.

If Sterling can stay on this path then who knows what the future holds for him or England, who are now the 15/8 favourites for Euro 2020 glory. Sterling’s remarkable 2021 – he already has an EFL Cup and Premier League winners medal in his pocket – might not end there either with Paddy Power making him the 6/1 joint-favourite to claim the Sports Personality of the Year award.

For someone not always painted in the best light, SPOTY would represent a remarkable turnaround for Sterling. But first, to finish turning around England’s fortunes at major tournaments.


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