Following on from a highly successful season with Liverpool, Raheem Sterling has been deservedly awarded with a spot on Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad. Sarah Fitzpatrick looks ahead to next month’s World Cup, a stage upon which Sterling might just fulfil his massive potential and announce his presence to the footballing world.
Raheem Sterling came on to the scene in the 2012/13 season when the new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers gave the youngster a chance in the first team. Unfortunately, Liverpool had a mediocre season and Sterling ran out of steam mid-way through the season. Sterling began the 2013/14 season on the Liverpool bench and was even linked with a loan move away from Anfield but instead decided to stay and take any opportunity to prove himself.
An opportunity came along for Sterling when Daniel Sturridge suffered an injury before Christmas and hegrabbed this opportunity with both hands and became a key player for Liverpool in their title challenge. His magnificent form has helped Sterling earn a place in the England World Cup squad that travels to Brazil this summer, but first the young star will be hoping to get Roy Hodgson’s attention when England face Peru at Wembley this Friday. It will be interesting to see what Sterling can bring to the English side both in the friendly this week and in the World Cup competition.
Sterling is on form and full of confidence after helping Liverpool secure a second place finish in the Premier League and in the process bringing Champions League football back to Anfield. It is essential for England boss Hodgson to choose his starting XI in the World Cup based on who is performing well for both club and country rather than making selections based on reputation. We have already seen Hodgson do this by choosing Southampton’s Luke Shaw over Chelsea’s Ashley Cole when he announced who would be representing England in Brazil but whether Hodgson will stick to form over reputation during the World Cup is yet to be seen.
If he does, then Sterling has to feature for England in the competition after what has been an amazing 2013/14 season for him, racking up 30 appearance, 9 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League. During this season he also built a great understanding with Liverpool strikers Suarez and Sturridge so if Hodgson is clever enough to put Sterling and Sturridge in the same line-up then he will guarantee England opportunities to create chances and score goals.
Sterling’s youth and the fact that he is new to scene would also benefit England because opposing teams won’t know too much about him. In major tournaments in the past, the English XI was always fairly easy to predict which made it easy for their opposition to prepare themselves to frustrate and get the better of the English side. The fact that Sterling has only cemented himself in Liverpool’s XI just before Christmas and that Liverpool didn’t play any European football means that he may not have attracted much interest outside of England. This may create an opportunity for opposing teams to underestimate the youngster and they won’t realise the talent of the lad until it is already too late.
We have seen Sterling take opportunities like this last season such as the Arsenal game when their defence underestimated the qualities of the Liverpool attack and found themselves 4-0 down after twenty minutes after their defence was destroyed by players such as Sterling and Sturridge. Although with England facing Uruguay in their group, it is likely that Suarez will inform his side of the qualities of Sterling but they also have two other teams to face who may know nothing about the young lad which may work in England’s favour.
Sterling can also add a huge amount of pace to the England midfield and attack which could help England in counter-attacks in the World Cup. England will be faced with tough oppositions in every game in Brazil this summer so they will constantly be put under pressure by teams so it would work in their favour to work on some counter-attack tactics.
In their group game against Uruguay, they will be faced with the prospect of dealing with Cavani and possibly Suarez depending on his knee surgery recovery. If Uruguay have both players fit then England will more than likely have a lot of defending to do throughout the game but if they have Sterling to receive the ball when clearing it away from the danger area then they could use his pace and fearlessness to take on players to create chances against the Uruguayans. Uruguay do not have the quickest defence and neither do Italy so if England use the pace of players such as Sterling then they can create chances on goal and give themselves a great chance of qualifying out of a tough group.
This breathtaking pace that Sterling has was shown last season such as his goal against Cardiff at Anfield when Henderson cleared a Cardiff ball and found Suarez who along with Sterling and Coutinho caught Cardiff on the break and resulted in a pass from Suarez to Sterling and a simple tap in for Sterling
Sterling also uses his pace to make magnificent runs into great areas which has been how he scored the majority of his goals last season. The youngster reads the game very well and is an intelligent player off the ball. The best example of this is probably his goal against Tottenham in Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of them at White Hart Lane last December. If you watch back that goal against Spurs, watch Sterling’s movement. Luis Alberto passes it to Suarez and immediately Sterling makes a subtle run into the box which results in him receiving the ball from Suarez in a one on one position and slots it home to make it 5-0.
These kind of intelligent runs towards the box by Sterling also resulted in goals for the youngster in games such as Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Southampton and his two goals against Arsenal. These intelligent and blistering runs by Sterling could only help England create chances as they have great players such as Gerrard who can pick out a pass from anywhere on the field and if he can pick out a blistering run from Sterling then it will only result in creating chances for Sterling to get a chance on goal or create chances for the likes of Sturridge and Rooney.
Sterling is fearless and is not afraid to take on anything that may get in his way which according to the youngster himself has a lot to do with the work he has been doing with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters. Sterling said that Peters helped him lift a barrier on his game as he told The Independent that, “From December time I realised I had to start stamping my personality, running with the ball, running into the box, making goals, scoring goals. Not playing with that barrier, not to be worried about making mistakes”. The fact that the youngster is playing without this barrier and fear means that he will play with confidence and freedom which is something that can only benefit a team.
Sterling is in a similar position with England that he was with Liverpool six months ago which was being a squad player and unsure whether he would play much of a part with the team but he took the opportunity he was given and ended up scoring plenty of goals and playing great football. If Roy Hodgson, gives the youngster a chance then there is no reason why he can’t make a similar impact at the World Cup with England.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena
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