عالمية عالمية

Southgate has tricky Sterling decision to make after frustrating San Marino showing

Raheem Sterling has been one of English football’s untouchables for as long as we can remember.

A talisman both on and off the pitch – someone who has carried the hopes of a nation in our quest to both win something tangible and rid society of racism.

One is a battle he might never win, sadly, while it remains to be seen if he will ever help the Three Lions succeed at a major tournament.

In the meantime, Sterling has been afforded the sort of elevated status reserved for only the chosen few. He is footballing royalty on these shores.

It almost feels like an act of treason to question his prowess for club and country.

Is Raheem Sterling now a doubt to start for England this summer?

So whisper it quietly, but his footballing crown has slipped of late to leave some people wondering if he still justifies a place in the starting line ups of either England or Manchester City.

If anyone needed a visit from San Marino to help boost their confidence it was Sterling.

The lowest ranked side in world football had a care salesman in midfield in the shape of Lorenzo Lunadei, who has to use up his annual leave from the showroom to allow him to play in games like these.

Franco Varrella’s men were so bad that opposite number Gareth Southgate could have picked the actual Pope in goal, instead of that bloke from Burnley.

Sterling must have been licking his lips as he led out the Three Lions looking to add to the solitary international goal he has scored since October 2019.

Raheem Sterling finally found the net in the first-half
Raheem Sterling finally found the net in the first-half

He might have been unable to beat an egg for City in recent weeks, let alone a defender, but the butcher, baker and candlestick maker were there for the taking at Wembley.

But it took Serling less than 10 minutes to show what a frustrating player he can be, when he headed a cross from Jesse Lingard wide from close range.

He should have scored, let alone hit the target, but did neither and then headed wide of the opposite post moments later before dragging a shot hopelessly wide.

The torture was eventually brought to an end on 30 minutes when his deflected shot made it 3-0, but this still felt like one of those nights when it was better to be on the subs bench than the pitch.


This was a B team full of hopefuls desperate to pass the audition, with one glaring exception in the shape of Sterling, winning his 59th cap.

Was he out there to lend some experience, or to overcome a test few still think he has to – proving he deserves his place in the team?

There is now an abundance of attacking talent queuing up to take Sterling’s shirt, like Phil Foden, who replaced him at half time.

The unthinkable might now be thinkable and it is one of several conundrums Southgate has to solve before the summer Euros.

It would be a big call, but he is not afraid to make them. Just ask Trent Alexander-Arnold.

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