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raheem sterling england euro 2020

raheem sterling england euro 2020 Introduction

raheem sterling england euro 2020 Sterling was once more England's best player as the Three Lions beat Denmark in Wednesday's semifinal

raheem sterling england euro 2020

raheem sterling england euro 2020 Euro 2020: Raheem Sterling earns place as England legend after starring role in run to final

raheem sterling england euro 2020

Looking back on the course of Raheem Sterling's career, perhaps it has always been leading inexorably toward this moment, this summer, when the young man who has had the eyes of the English nation on him for so long earned his place in the pantheon of this country's national obsession.

If that feels like an overstatement it should not. Anyway if any moment demands a degree of giddiness it is the one where England are in the final of a major tournament for the first time in the lifetime of most of the country's population. Sterling has not been alone in taking England to the final of Euro 2020 but it is hard to imagine they would be there without him. His goals, his runs and the belief in the qualities of himself and his team that emanates from him whenever the ball is at his feet have set the tone for this most remarkable of summers. 

The boy who grew up in the shadows of Wembley now seems to bestride it like a giant whenever he takes to the pitch. In the early exchanges against Denmark he was somehow winning the odd header against Andreas Christensen or Simon Kjaer despite giving up more than five inches to the tallest of them. Where once his spells in possession have brought murmurs of concern or frustration from a skeptical crowd from the moment the ball first came to Sterling there was a pause of belief. 

Give him the ball and he would ask questions of the Danish defense. Leave him unoccupied for just a moment and he would dart into the space from which to get a shooting opportunity. In the past, and even early on tonight, he has infuriated many for what is seen as a failure to convert presentable opportunities. Why did he not put the ball either side of Kasper Schmeichel moments before he forced the equalizer with his pressure on Simon Kjaer?

Yet there is something of a misunderstanding there in the value of simply getting to shooting positions on such a consistent basis, on finding that gap in the defense that will allow you to reach a Harry Kane cross or a Bukayo Saka cut back. Even when he does not, the sheer pressure he puts on defenders is enough to force them into mistakes or to get their technique all askew as they dive at balls in a forlorn attempt to stop Sterling getting there.

Throughout this tournament he seems to have had a knack for finding the spots where he can consistently impact the game. Against Croatia he dropped deep far more often than he might for Manchester City, demanding the ball so he could turn and run at an ailing, aging defense. It was more traditional Sterling in the victory over the Czech Republic, darting into the space between full back and center back with runs that were well-timed more often than not.

At Wembley tonight it soon became apparent where the spaces would be, both as a creator and scorer Sterling exploited them with ruthless efficiency. With Joakim Maehle committed to pushing forward Jannick Vestergaard, hardly the sort of mobile central defender who is at ease being dragged out wide, found himself unable to cope with the stretching runs of Saka, particularly when Kane took up a berth on the Danish left as well. From his position across the pitch, Sterling attacked the danger area with speed and precision.

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