England's Raheem Sterling celebrates after the match, Reuters
(Reuters) -England coach Gareth Southgate has praised Raheem Sterling’s “incredible resilience and hunger” after the Manchester City forward helped them reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
Sterling has been one of England’s top performers at the tournament, scoring three times in four games. He opened the scoring in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Germany which set them on their way to the clash with Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has scored 15 goals in his last 20 England appearances, having gone 27 games without a goal before that.
“He is a fighter,” Southgate told British media on Wednesday. “He has developed over the last couple of years this real hunger to score.
“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’s selection had come under question but Southgate said the forward was happy to prove critics wrong.
“To deliver them at Wembley will have been really special for him and the goals return is incredible,” Southgate.
“Absolutely incredible, really, but yes, please keep asking the questions because if we cannot motivate him everyone else will certainly be able to.”
Southgate also backed Harry Kane to add to his tally after the forward scored his first of the tournament against Germany, saying the skipper would feel unburdened by the goal.
He compared Kane’s situation to that of former England captain Alan Shearer, who ended a 12-game goal drought in the run-up to Euro ‘96 by finding the back of the net against Switzerland in the tournament opener.
Shearer went on to finish as the Golden Boot winner with five goals at the tournament, though England lost in the semi-finals to Germany after a shootout, with Southgate missing the decisive kick.
“I played with Alan in ‘96, and the change in him once he got that goal ...,” Southgate said.
“So that will be a high release for Harry – there is no question about that.”