Raheem Sterling urges Gareth Southgate trust as England attack strikes World Cup fear ahead of USA clash

Raheem Sterling urges Gareth Southgate trust as England attack strikes World Cup fear ahead of USA clash

Raheem Sterling has urged England to go for the jugular again in tonight’s match against the USA, but says Gareth Southgate has earned the right to set up the side any way he wants.

England can book their place in the last-16 with another win at the Al Bayt Stadium, after opening their World Cup campaign with an eye-catching 6-2 thrashing of Iran on Monday.

Southgate is expected to stick with Sterling, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka behind Harry Kane in an unchanged side, but the manager has tended to switch to a back-five against more established opponents and could sacrifice a forward player as the tournament progresses.

Sterling, who scored his first World Cup goal against Iran, says an attacking system will strike fear into the USA, but urged fans to trust Southgate.

Asked if the 52-year-old has earned the right to play his way, Sterling said: “Yeah, exactly, that’s the message here. The manager is the one who sees the other teams, who knows how they’re going to play. If he sees something against the USA, we have to adapt, and it’s worked for us in big situations at tournaments before.

Raheem Sterling is set to start for England against the USA after scoring in the win over Iran (Getty Images)
Raheem Sterling is set to start for England against the USA after scoring in the win over Iran (Getty Images)

“We showed [against Iran] what we can do when we play on the front foot and I think that system is very positive,” the Chelsea forward added. “It is free-flowing, more attackers on the field, the press is more aggressive, so it’s good to play. It was brilliant.

“From the get-go, we had a lot of attacking players on the field and that created a lot of spaces and chances. Going into the tournament we need to be that positive, keep going from the first whistle, and we did that brilliantly. Every time we had the ball, we were right at them and tried to punish them, and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.

“When you play against any team, the more attackers — and good attackers — they have makes you think it could be a long day. So, having the personnel out there will make teams think.”

Harry Kane and Harry Maguire are fit to start, despite both coming off against Iran, with Southgate revealing the latter was suffering from dehydration.

Asked about the possibility of naming an unchanged XI, Southgate said: “On the one hand, the team have earned the right to go again and there’s something important about a meritocracy for a team where, if I’ve played well, I’ve earned the right to [go] again.

England Training Session for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | 23rd November 2022

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“And then there’s, ‘but are they all ready to go again and is that the right decision? There are other guys who are raring to go’. So, that’s the decision we face, really.”

Sterling is at his third World Cup, after making his first appearance on this stage as a 19-year-old in Brazil 2014, the same age as Jude Bellingham now.

The Borussia Dortmund teenager opened the scoring, and his England account, in a standout display against Iran and is already generating a huge buzz.

Sterling says Bellingham can handle the pressure but insists he will be able to perform better if he is not subjected to excessive scrutiny.

“We need to keep letting him do his thing, enjoy his football and not put too much pressure on him,” Sterling said. “He’ll get to the very top, we’ve just got to be patient and let him flow. I’m big on just letting someone be. He’s got all the ability in the world but he doesn’t need added pressure.

“Put pressure on the guys that have been in situations like this before. He’s someone that I’d love to just go under the radar, keep playing football and he’ll flourish off that. I’m not saying he can’t deal with it, but anyone would flourish, play better, without too much pressure on them. The less we put [the young players] under the microscope, the better they’ll do.”

James Maddison is set to be only England absentee again tonight, having trained with the squad just once in Qatar due to a knee problem.

Southgate has ruled out England following Germany, whose players covered their mouths before the game against Japan, by staging a protest tonight, after his side were barred by FIFA from wearing the ‘OneLove’ armband against Iran.

“There’s a risk that everybody tries to escalate [or better each other],” he said. “We’ve got to be comfortable that we know what we stand for. That’s not to say that we won’t do anything looking forward if it’s right. We’ve got to be focusing on the games.”